With St. Patrick's Day just around the corner, animals--and their keepers--at the Smithsonian's National Zoo's Cheetah Conservation Station got into the holiday spirit. Animal care staff and aides created enrichment items--a paper-Mache mouse and Leprechaun hat--for maned wolves Siete and Diamantina. Inside were some of the wolves' favorite treats, including frozen-thawed mice, red grapes and banana. These animals, which are native to central South America, are omnivores and will eat small mammals, insects, reptiles, birds, bird eggs, fruits and vegetation.
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 ZooDownload photo set