In the midst of the annual debate of ‘how early is too early’ to get the tree up, the animals at Drusillas Zoo Park near Alfriston have been trimming their trees and decking their halls ready for the festive season.
The Zoo’s lemurs, squirrel monkeys, common marmosets and sloths were given the unusual responsibility of decorating their own enclosures this year… with unsurprisingly chaotic results!
Resident sweetheart sloth, Flash, took to her tinsel duties very well ensuring her and Gordon had a sparkly nest box to snuggle up in, the common marmosets argued over who got to put the sweet potato ornaments on the tree, the lemurs got lost inside their new stockings, and the squirrel monkeys delighted in destroying everything in sight!
As well as providing lots of fun, activities like this form a crucial part of the Zoo’s enrichment programmes for their residents. Introducing new objects, materials, scents, and food in unusual, challenging, and novel ways keeps the animals mentally stimulated, which benefits their overall health enormously.
Keeper Amelia Jones said: “The animals really enjoy exploring these new, novel items that they wouldn’t see in their day-to-day lives, it gives them something to work out and gets their little brains working! As well as being great fun for us to see them playing and investigating, it’s really important that we enrich our animals in this way to encourage them to display natural behaviours and to keep their days busy and varied.”
The Zoo will be closed to the public Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day, but of course the Park’s team of Keepers will still be caring for the Zoo’s 80+ species of exotic animals throughout the holiday.
Amelia continued: “Christmas day isn’t actually much different to any other day at the Zoo for our animals, as regardless of the holiday, straying too far from their normal routine would just be confusing for them. But, there’s definitely a different atmosphere for us all – the Keepers will be singing Christmas songs in the enclosures, wearing Christmas hats and it’s always a really fun day with everyone in good spirits.”
“Although we won’t be with our families on Christmas Day, the animals have become second family to us, so it still feels special even though we are working. And, we’ll usually treat ourselves to an elaborate meal of shop-bought turkey sandwiches!”
Located just off the A27 in Alfriston, Drusillas Park is open daily from 10am, with their Christmas event now in full swing, offering Santa’s grotto, husky ice cave, festive food, face painting, and a whole forest of Christmas trees to explore. For more information please telephone 01323 874100 or visit www.drusillas.co.uk