To celebrate the Christmas season the Gladys Porter Zoo will host its annual Animal Play Day — when keepers will give gifts to the animals in their care — from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday.
The festivity will kick off with the keepers giving the treats to the gorillas, Arabian Oryx, colobus monkeys, bushbuck, yellowback duiker and the aquarium at 11 a.m.
“We do generally host one every year for Thanksgiving and Christmas, but we do have several throughout the year… and we celebrate different holidays,” said Patricia Scanlan, curator of behavioral husbandry. “This is more an activity for the public even though animals do receive enrichment every day and the public may not be fortunate to see it every day.”
Some animals will receive empty boxes because it stimulates their mind by seeing something in their exhibit that they don’t see every day.
Scanlan said animals behave differently with the boxes, with the lion squashing it, the giraffes stepping on them to make them flat and the feline cats getting inside them.
“We got puzzle feeders,” Scanlan said. “These are intended to not only be fun and cute for the public but to stimulate the animals mentally and make them work for their food. We will put a little bit of grain, mixed nuts, a little treat for the animals inside these puzzle feeders and what they have to do is figure out how to get it out.”
Tigers, giraffes, bongos, servals, lions and zebras will receive their gift at 1:15 p.m.;.
Rhino, chimpazees, red ruffed lemurs, siamang, mueller’s and ring-tailed lemurs will be given boxes at 2:30 p.m., and orangutans, nilgai, gibbon, kangaroos and spider monkeys will get boxes at 3 p.m.
“It is meant to keep them mentally sharp and keep them on their toes — keep them from becoming bored,” Scanlan said. “It serves a real serious point. These animals are within our care and they don’t have a lot of their natural stimulate that they have out in the wild so it is our job to provide it for them.
“Just to watch the wheels turn, that animal process that physical item that was not in its exhibit before and it is now; it is fun, it is always unique, educational and priceless.”
The event is included with the purchase of regular admission or zoo membership.