National Zoo Animals Steal Hearts This Valentine's Day

Where is the love this Valentine's Day? At the Smithsonian's National Zoo! Cuban crocodiles and giant Aldabra tortoises at the Reptile Discovery Center feasted on heart-shaped treats prepared by the Zoo's Nutrition staff. In the Bird House, a blue-billed curassow couple, a red-and-green macaw named Mac, and others enjoyed frozen fruits made by their keepers with love.

The Zoo can spice up the Valentine's Day for humans, too. For those with a sense of humor, send a truly wild gift-Critter Cupids-and bestow an honorary name upon a National Zoo critter to recognize your sweetie, a friend, or a family member.

Food-and the many forms it comes in-is an important component of Animal Enrichment, a program that provides physically and mentally stimulating activities and environments for the Zoo's residents. Keepers and curators carefully study animal behavior and determine what kinds of enrichment are appropriate for each species and individual animals. Food is presented in a variety of ways such as in a simple puzzle feeder, hidden or scattered about the enclosure, or buried in a substrate. Engaging activities helps keepers ensure the Zoo's animals have a high quality of life and holidays are a perfect opportunity to entertain visitors while providing enrichment to the animals.

Photo Credit: Jennifer Zoon, Smithsonian's National Zoo

Caption 1: In true Valentine's Day spirit, the tortoises were happy to share the holiday treats. The Cuban crocodiles, on the other hand, stole each other's hearts and kept the treats to themselves.

Caption 2: Mac, a red-and-green macaw, uses a custom-made paint brush made of a paper towel roll and leaves to create a special Valentine. A peanut butter treat is inside the roll.

Ingredients in crocodile enrichment: Water, beef blood, beet juice, gelatin, white rats and black mice.

Ingredients in tortoise enrichment: Water, beet juice, beets, carrots, sweet potatoes and gelatin.

Ingredients in bird enrichment: Water, grapes, strawberries, apples, papayas, peanut butter.

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