Beating the heat with animal enrichment

We’ve already had many hot and humid days, and we’re only half-way through summer! Some of our animals deal better with the heat than others and may choose to stay in their inside habitat where it is cooler than outdoors, so if you don’t see someone in their exhibit this may be why. The zoo keepers always like to provide options and enrichment for our animals, and during the summer we provide many ways for them to beat the heat.

If you’re walking around the Zoo, you may notice sprinklers or misters set up in many of the exhibits. These help cool off areas in the exhibit and give the animals a choice to be in the water.

Another option many of our animals have is access to a pool or mud wallows. These are areas animals can not only get a drink from but submerge themselves if they choose. Our elephants especially love cooling off in the sprinklers and pool!

Some of our animals get ice blocks, often filled with treats! These not only cool the animal off, but are great enrichment and give our animals something to play with. They love getting anything from toys to food inside, We fill our ice blocks with different food items such as fish and fruits and veggies, and we even make some special “blood blocks” for our carnivores out of fish or meat blood.

Ice cube trays are perfect for making quick little snacks, and are easy to hide fruit in.

Our baboons enjoying some frozen mackerel, a perfect way to cool off.

Frozen fish is a great snack. Salmon frozen in ice is our polar bear’s favorite.

8With so many ways to keep the animals cool, the summer months can be enjoyable for guests, staff, and animals alike!

–Randi Conway, Zoo Keeper

Enrichment for Bianca the lynx

Almost daily, I am asked what my favorite animal at the Zoo is. That is not an easy question for me because I have been fortunate enough to have worked with a variety of different species ranging from frogs to rhinos. However, there is one particular animal here at the Zoo that I look forward to seeing every day. Her name is Bianca and she is one of our Canadian lynx. Bianca was born on June 4, 2013 and came to Seneca Park Zoo on July 9, 2014. I was fortunate enough to work with her when she first came to the Zoo and spent time in quarantine.

All new arrivals go through quarantine, and during that time a complete physical is conducted, including fecal and blood testing to assess the animal’s overall health condition. We also test for infectious diseases and look for gastrointestinal and/or external parasites. Quarantine times can vary, but they usually last about 30 days.

During this time, I spent lot of time with Bianca and learned that she was a very curious and active animal. She liked to sit on top of her “house” and watch through the window to see everything that was going on inside the building, and she would sit on the highest spot outside to watch the Zoo guests pass by.Once her quarantine was complete, Bianca was relocated to her current home in the Rocky Coasts with our male lynx, Gretzky. She was often found on the smallest of ledges at the top of her enclosure, so the Zoo’s Environmental Enrichment Committee build the lynx a cat tree, complete with a comfy basket at the top for her to lounge in and observe activities far outside her enclosure.Due to her curious nature, Bianca always challenges us to come up with new and exciting ideas to enrich her. All of the animals at the Zoo are offered environmental enrichment. This allows them to demonstrate their species-typical behaviors and to exercise control or choice over their environment. Bianca particularly likes new scents, different substrates, and to be up high. We recently received some new wood wool bedding material. It was placed on exhibit in various spots and immediately became a favorite spot for her to roll in and rest.Spices, perfumes, boxes, paper bags, and soiled straw from other animals are other things that we place throughout her space. In order to keep things interesting, we are always doing research to come up with novel enrichments. We also track and rate any enrichment we give Bianca, as well as all the animals at the Zoo, to better understand what they prefer.

As Assistant General Curator at the Zoo, I am fortunate enough to work with or see Bianca every day, and I enjoy every moment. The next time you are at the Zoo, make sure that you stop by the lynx exhibit to see what new enrichment they have received.

Remember to look up high, because you just might be surprised to see Bianca looking down at you!–Kellee Wolowitz, Assistant General Curator