Keepers at Taronga Western Plains Zoo have been busy spreading some early Christmas cheer amongst the animals at the Zoo.Today, the Meerkats are receiving some special treats in and around a papier-mâché Santa Claus and inside some Christmas bon-bons.“We’re going to sprinkle some of their favourite food - meal worms, in Santa’s sack and in the bon-bons so the Meerkats will have to forage and find the food,” said Keeper, Karen Ellis.Keepers often provide enrichment items to the animals at the Zoo, this may include hiding food around the exhibits, changing feed times, providing toys or new ‘furniture’ for climbing and playing on as well as placing food inside objects that challenge the animal’s mentally and physically. This is all designed to keep the Zoo’s animals’ active and healthy.“We regularly provide enrichment items to our animals, as it encourages natural behaviours such as foraging or problem solving. It is only fitting that at this time of year the enrichment have a Christmas theme,” said Karen. Over the summer school holidays, visitors will also have the opportunity to go inside the Meerkat exhibit and meet the troop as part of the new Meerkat Encounter.The Meerkat Encounter will run on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays throughout the school holiday period and is an opportunity for visitors to get up close and personal with the Zoo’s Meerkats. The encounter costs $59 per person in addition to Zoo admission with only four lucky people able to do it per day.“It is an amazing experience to get so close to the Meerkats and from the reactions of visitors who have already experienced this encounter, they really enjoy it,” said Karen.