NZ zoo residents get plenty of treats at Christmas

Orana Wildlife Park is among the NZ zoos giving their animals Christmas treats. ``The rhinos love...
Orana Wildlife Park is among the NZ zoos giving their animals Christmas treats. ``The rhinos love boxes. Watching them stomp around with a box on the horn is something else,'' spokesman Nathan Hawke said

Father and daughter bears Sean and Sasa tucked into their usual meal at Wellington Zoo today, but with a Christmas twist.

The sun bears' boxes of bark, kibble and bugs were decidedly more festive than usual, with a layer of bright green Christmas wrapping paper thrown into the mix.

The pair had no trouble ripping the paper off and flinging the boxes open to get the treats inside - they've had a lot of practice.

``We offer these guys enrichment every day,'' keeper Lauren Werrey said.

Enrichment is a way for keepers to stimulate the animals' natural behaviours. Sean and Sasa would naturally forage for food, so the forage boxes mean they must work a little to get the food out.

Other days the keepers will give them items with interesting scents, or when the weather is hot the keepers may freeze food inside blocks of ice for the bears.

``You'll see them using their claws to break them up. Sean actually stands on the smaller ones and breaks them up that way,'' Werrey said.

They would also break out the sprinklers for some fun with the bears. Other times they would put the bears' food high up in the trees so they had to climb for it.

While Wellington Zoo's animals won't be getting presents as such for Christmas, they would get a little more than usual for their meals.

``I know with our lions we offer them large carcass feeds at Christmas time,'' she said.

For animals in zoos around the country, treats would be festively themed.

Orana Wildlife Park spokesman Nathan Hawke said the keepers would break out the presents on Christmas Eve so visitors to the zoo could join in the fun and parents could entertain their children ``for the day before the big fella comes''.

The animals would be receiving things that were ``obviously all part of their normal diet, but just the good stuff''.

Animals could expect Christmas crackers, wrapped boxes, and treats hidden away where they would have to work to get them out.

``Gorillas are cool because obviously they will manipulate things with their hands and fingers.''

Kea were also ``amazing to watch''.

``I'm sure as people experience, they can destroy things in no time,'' he said.

``The rhinos love boxes. Watching them stomp around with a box on the horn is something else.''

He said the rhinos would be excited over their boxes and would ``bounce'' around with their tails curled.

Meanwhile at Auckland Zoo, keepers will be feeding the animals their favourite foods.

Meerkats would get mealworms, crickets and cat biscuits hidden inside hay in Christmas boxes, Asian small-clawed otters would get Christmas cracker type looking presents, and the kune kune pig would get grasses, fruit and vegetables.

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