Christmas Day keeps park rangers busy with festive gifts for zoo animals

Zoos across the UK have gotten into the festive spirit this holiday season by handing out Christmas gifts to their animals including snacks, aftershave and a polar bear’s favorite toy, kayaks.

The deputy head of water sports at Yorkshire Wildlife Park, Josh Luxton, said it would be “business as usual” for park rangers on Christmas Day.

“We will be here first thing in the morning to see if there have been any presents from Santa,” he told the PA news agency.

“We’ll be cleaning, making sure all the animals are fed, watered and cared for… But then with the added bonus of all the extra enrichment they’ll get.”

“We make sure the animals are entertained and we have something going for them.

“And with all the presents that Santa Claus left overnight, we will distribute them to different areas of the park.

“The animals are always good, so on Christmas Day they are always spoiled.”

The animals in the park receive a wide range of Christmas treats.

“They’re going to get different types of enrichment boxes where we just hide food for them to search for,” Mr Luxton explained.

“Carnivores have a penchant for a bit of perfume or aftershave, so sometimes there are some bottles Santa has brought for them to try on Christmas Day.

“There are extra fishy treats for our sea lions.”

Some of the animals even get toys, and the polar bears at Yorkshire Wildlife Park have an unusual favourite.

“They love kayaks,” said Mr. Luxton.

“They will try to sink them, play with them, turn them over… We can hide food in them.

“We filled an entire kayak with water, stuffed it with loads of fishy treats, lots of meat and snacks, froze it in the giant freezer we have here at the park, and then they gorged themselves.

“They went crazy about it.

“We have a program where people can donate used kayaks to the park for the bears.

“So it’s nice that they get to the polar bears first before the kayak is thrown away in a landfill.

“They use them really well, play with them and benefit from them.

“Then we will recycle them to reduce the impact on the environment.”

“A zoo keeper’s job doesn’t end on Christmas Day,” said Natalie Horner, Cotswold Wildlife Park’s primate, small mammal and bird department head.

“Our animals are still here, and so are we, making sure they have food and water and the enclosures are nice and clean.

“The park is closed to visitors on Christmas Day, so keepers tend to work shorter hours than usual so we can make sure we get home in time for our own Christmas dinner.

“It’s always a fun atmosphere where everyone is in a great mood.

“Cakes, biscuits and chocolates are usually plentiful, but the most important thing is that our animals are well taken care of on one of the happiest days of the year.”

This is the first Christmas for the park’s newest members, twins Antony and Cleopatra, who were the first crowned lemurs to be successfully bred at the Cotswold Wildlife Park when they were born earlier this year.

“They couldn’t wait to enjoy their Christmas treats,” Ms. Horner added.

“Our fire-bellied lemurs, Matiz and his mother Maren, and the ring-tailed lemur troop also enjoyed their enrichment.”

However, Ms Horner explained that not everyone got into the party mood this year.

“We also gave our Asiatic Lions, Rana and Kanha, a catnip-covered Christmas pudding enrichment ball… Like some of us, they don’t seem to be big fans of Christmas pudding.”

The squirrel monkeys, capuchin monkeys and otters at Edinburgh Zoo in Scotland, meanwhile, were having a great few days, receiving their Christmas crackers filled with festive treats like sunflower seeds, which were handcrafted by children at the zoo’s breakfast month.

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