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

UK zoos having been getting into the Christmas spirit by giving out presents to their animals, including snacks, aftershave and used kayaks.
UK zoos having been getting into the Christmas spirit by giving out presents to their animals, including snacks, aftershave and used kayaks.

Zoos up and down the United Kingdom have been getting into the festive mood this holiday season by giving out Christmas presents to their animals, including snacks, aftershave, and a polar bear’s favourite toy, kayaks.

Deputy leader of the aquatics section at Yorkshire Wildlife Park Josh Luxton said it will be “business as usual” for park rangers on Christmas Day.

“We’ll still be here first thing in the morning to see if there’s been any presents dropped off from Santa,” he told the PA news agency.

“We’ll be cleaning, making sure all the animals are fed, watered and looked after… But then with the added bonus of all the additional enrichment that they’ll be getting.

Keepers at the Cotswold Wildlife Park hung some pine cones filled with pear and grapes for them to explore and also hid some tasty treats within a Christmas sack (Cotswold Wildlife Park)

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

“And with all the presents that Santa will have left overnight, we’ll be distributing them across different sections of the park.

“The animals are always good so they are always spoilt rotten on Christmas Day.”

The animals at the park receive a wide variety of Christmas goodies.

“They’ll get different types of enrichment boxes, where we will just hide food that they can forage around for,” Mr Luxton explained.

“Carnivores are quite partial to a bit of perfume or aftershave, so sometimes there’s some bottles that have been dropped off by Santa for them, which they get to test out on Christmas Day.

“There’s extra fishy treats for our sealions.”

The keepers at Cotswold Wildlife Park prepared a catnip-covered Christmas pudding enrichment ball for their Asiatic lions – they were not fans (Cotswold Wildlife Park)

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

“They love kayaks,” Mr Luxton said.

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

“We filled a whole kayak with water, put loads of fishy treats, lots of meat and snacks in, froze it in the massive freezer we have here at the park, and then they tucked in.

“They went crazy for it.

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

“So it’s nice that before the kayak is going to be chucked away in a landfill, they come to the polar bears first.

“They get really good use out of them, play with them and get the benefit of them.

“Then we will recycle them so that we can lessen the impact on the environment.”

“A keeper’s job doesn’t stop for Christmas Day,” Natalie Horner, section head of primates, small mammals and birds at Cotswold Wildlife Park, explained.

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

The monkeys at Edinburgh Zoo have been receiving Christmas crackers full of tasty festive treats (Edinburgh Zoo)

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

“It’s always a fun atmosphere with everyone in high spirits.

“There is usually plenty of cake, biscuits and chocolates to keep us going but the main thing is knowing our animals are well looked after 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 became the first crowned lemurs successfully bred at Cotswold Wildlife Park when they were born earlier this year.

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

“Our red-bellied Lemurs, Matiz and his mum Maren, and the Ring-tailed Lemur troop enjoyed their enrichments too.”

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

“We also treated our Asiatic Lions, Rana and Kanha, to a catnip-covered Christmas pudding enrichment ball… Like some of us, it appears they aren’t big fans of Christmas pudding either.”

The squirrel monkeys, capuchins and otters at Edinburgh Zoo in Scotland, meanwhile, have been having a cracking few days, receiving their Christmas crackers filled with festive treats such as sunflower seeds, which were handmade by children at the zoo’s Breakfast With The Clauses event this month.