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Many Zoo animals received festive treats today in a Christmas version of Taronga’s regular enrichment program. 

Taronga’s famous chimpanzee group received specially-made Bonbons filled with their favourite foods.  

Primate Supervisor, Louise Grossfeldt, said: “Our Chimpanzees enjoy receiving these themed enrichment items from time to time as it encourages foraging behaviour and increases mental stimulation.”

“Our Behavioural Enrichment team, consisting mainly of volunteers, works tirelessly throughout the year to maximise the diversity of food and activities for all of Taronga’s animals and today they have a Christmas twist. These challenges make important contributions to the animals’ wild behaviours.”

The striking russet-coloured coat of the Tree Kangaroo contrasted against the green and red of watermelon which is definitely one of their favourite foods. Similar to kangaroos and wallabies, these amazingly adapted animals are found in the forests of New Guinea and Cape York. Taronga’s pair made easy work of the Christmas Tree-shaped watermelon that had been prepared for them.  

Australia’s oldest Kodiak Bear, ‘Bethyl’, didn’t waste any time tucking into her specially-made piñata Snow Man. As this magnificent old bear turns 34 in January, Bethyl gets care that you would expect to see in an exclusive retirement home. Her exhibit has been modified with soft bedding areas and ramps to help her mobility and comfort. 

Carnivore Supervisor, Louise Ginman, said: “Even at this stage of her life Bethyl still maintains her acute sense of smell which helps her find items we hide around the exhibit.”

“Sometimes they are fresh herbs or sprays of essential oils; other times its peanuts or fresh salmon. Today she got them in a carefully made papier-mâché snow man.” 

Taronga’s Meerkats may be small but they definitely knew how to draw a crowd and a smile when they came out to explore their desert habitat exhibit to find it had been strung with piñata birds and boxes wrapped in Christmas paper. 

“As usual, there was lots of scurrying and investigating to ensure all of the insects and other food inside the piñatas and boxes were snapped up quickly. We find that the Meerkats get a vast amount of enjoyment from themed enrichment activities like these which are a credit to the volunteer staff that make them for us,” Louise said.   

Behavioural enrichment is an important part of caring for the animals at Taronga Zoo. Zoo Keepers and the Behavioural Studies Unit are constantly setting new challenges for the animals. This includes hiding food so the animals have to forage and work for their meals, stimulating their hunting abilities and in turn educating visitors about the extraordinary abilities of animals. 

Taronga Zoo is open every day of the year, including Chistmas Day, Boxing Day and New Years Day. To celebrate 2011 being the UN Year of the Forest, Taronga has a Forest Discovery Trail running through the Zoo, featuring many threatened species that need our support.  

Media Contact: Ben Gibson, bgibson@zoo.nsw.gov.au, 9978 4606

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