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A Christmas Trip to the Zoo

At Paper Round we are proud to support the Zoological Society of London, and on Friday afternoon a group of us went to London Zoo to make some Christmassy treats for the animals there. In captivity it’s easy for animals to become bored, uninspired and as a consequence very unhappy. The work ZSL do means that they are able to study animals’ behaviour and improve their situations in the wild, especially for endangered species. As a part of this work, they actively encourage animals’ natural behaviours by creating stimulating activities which include creating different ways for the animals to find their food, which is precisely how we were helping out.

When we arrived we were given a short presentation on the benefits of what we’d be doing for the animals, and how it helps them to maintain the same behavioural patterns as they would have in the wild. For the meerkats we made “Yule logs” which were little wooden logs with hay and worms inside. The benefits of these was so that the meerkats could use their long fingers to root inside the logs and work for their food. For the fruit bats we made hanging baskets with a particular type of flower that they like wound around the basketso that they were able to enjoy a different type of food than they had been having recently. The limas were the stars of the day who we made hanging balls of willow for. We were then allowed inside the enclosure with the animals to hang them off of the branches to simulate trees. The act of hanging the balls as opposed to just placing them within easy reach meant that the limas had to pull the balls towards them and work for their food. When the zookeepers have done experiments with various animals, they have found that, when given the choice, the animals will choose to work for their food as opposed to taking the easy option.

The wild boars were given Christmas sacks of hay with sweet potato at the bottom. This encouraged their natural foraging behaviour, and they even got out of bed to have a look. For the monkeys we were able to take logs and stuff little pieces of apple into the gaps to encourage them to dig out the food.

Finally, the most Christmassy animal of all got a treat too. For the reindeers we smeared a food paste on a log which would then dry on and they would nibble off later on.

Overall the afternoon was a very enjoyable experience and we all learnt a lot about the lengths ZSL go to, to stimulate their animals. Keepers will provide activities such as these on a daily basis for the animals and they keep up a wide variety to ensure life in captivity does not get boring for the animals and they are still able to keep up their natural instincts.

And on that note, it's our last blog of 2013, thank you all for reading and we'll be back in the new year with more hints, tips and tricks.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

The Paper Round Team

Emily Morrey-McGrath

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