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Delivering Holiday Treats to the Animals

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Animal Updates | Birds | Mammals | Enrichment

Monday, December 09, 2013


Delivering Holiday Treats to the Animals
Charlie the sea otter admiring his snowman and enjoying his holiday treats.  | Hugh Ryono

The morning of Saturday Holiday Treats for the Animals was dark, gloomy and pouring rain. But, while the weather outside was frightful, inside the Aquarium was so delightful! Children’s groups came to perform in the Great Hall. Santa Diver was visiting in Blue Cavern. The holiday “fishmas” tree and train-set were up and our costume character animals were dressed for the season, visiting with kids amongst lots of fun craft tables. Halls were decked, cheer was in the air, and we husbandry volunteers were all set to start delivering treats to the animals!

First up for Holiday Treats were the otters! They were first up last week when they celebrated Hanukkah with clam “latkes” and blue ice treats. But they were also first on Saturday and more than ready for round two of treats! They got snow and colorful, seafood flavored ice in all sorts of festive, winter shapes. Hugh made his traditional snowman for the otters too. Watching from outside the exhibit, I could see the otters were like excited children on Christmas morning. They jumped energetically in and out of the water, bounded around on the rock work, and frolicked in the snow. It was hilarious to watch them stuff their armpits so full of treats that they left trails of colored ice bits as they waddled their way back to the water. Charlie, experiencing his first snowman since leaving for his adventures at Long Marine Lab, seemed particularly smitten with the snow sculpture. He lay at the foot of the snowman, nibbling away on red and green squid popsicles (mmm… squid popsicle…).

As much fun as it was, I couldn’t stay with the otters for long. There were lots more animals to deliver treats to, like our feathered friends outside! We made boxes and boxes of treats for the Lorikeets and others birds, including my tens of feet of recycled paper chain and hand-made raffia ornaments. A wonderful group of students even helped us by making some animal-safe paper chains, snowflakes and snowmen especially for our animals! I didn’t want our birds to miss out because of the rain.

I started outside delivering treats to the Aracari, small toucans from Central and South America, Kevin and Lulu. I fully admit, they got their treats next because I could set them up without getting completely soaked by the rain. AnnMarie, an enrichment volunteer, made paper mache ornaments, filled with blueberries, to hang for the birds. We also gave them some paper mache ornaments without blueberries and some paper mache present boxes for them to play with too. There was no fooling Kevin and Lulu though. They knew which were the good gifts. Almost immediately after giving them their “gifts”, they went straight for the berry filled ornaments. Forget the decorations, we want treats! While AnnMarie observed the birds and carefully recorded their enrichment session, I was off to deliver more holiday treats.

Next on the list were the Lorikeets. Getting their treats outside proved to be a little tricky. While the birds were just fine with the rain, the paper and paper mache treats were not. Since I didn’t want the Lorikeet’s enrichment items to melt in the rain before they could play with them, when weather would let up a little bit, I’d run out, bumbling around in my borrowed, three-sizes-too-large rain jacket, to set up what I could. Thrilled at the sight of the treats, the Lorikeets would follow me out, just waiting for their enrichment items. Or I should say, most of them waited. A few mischievous birds began playing with the paper chain, raffia ornaments, and millet garland as I tried to hang them up. It’s really challenging to hang up decorations, in the rain, while the birds nibble apart said decorations for fun. It was almost like a game. Rain slows: birds, decorations, and I dart out. Rain starts up again: we all retreat back under the awning. And repeat. The birds and I were laughing all the way.

I think we, both myself and the Lorikeets, were all excited when the sun finally came out. The aviculturists and I finished hanging up the presents for the Lorikeets. Visitors flooded into the aviary to watch the birds feed and play. And I was off to my last enrichment toy delivery of the day.

Lola, the Sulfur-crested Cockatoo, had a very special holiday treat that was set to be delivered during an afternoon show. Staccie, an enrichment volunteer, had crafted beautiful holiday “ornaments” for Lola, including a wiffle-ball snowman with a real carrot nose. In front of the crowd, Lola’s trainer presented him with the snowman and I added its carrot nose. True to himself, Lola put on a show for everyone. Using his amazing bird brain, he reasoned out how to haul up his snowman ornament by its hat, removed the carrot nose and began munching away at his tasty treat. After he finished with the carrot, he went to town on the snowman’s paper stuffing and used his talented beak to unscrew the snowman’s eyes. Lola fed off the laughter and cheers from the audience putting on a show for them. He seemed to enjoy the attention as much as he enjoyed his holiday treat.

This year’s Holiday Treats festival was so much fun for the animals and so much fun for us too. Although I could only be there for Saturday, it was wonderful to watch the animals enjoy their treats that we put so much hard work and care into making and setting up. Now it’s already time to come up with more, great holiday enrichments for next year!

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