Thursday, July 19, 2012

Saturday July 14,2012 - Teddy Bear Festival

The Zoo's annual Teddy Bear Festival.  What can I say that doesn't sound like a broken record in regards to Enrichment Toy provisions.  

I'll start by saying the Grizzly Girls had a wonderful time!  They were really worked up with excitement while waiting to be let into the Gulch for their treats.   Seems they knew something more than usual was up, because I've never heard them vocalize as I did today.  

Any of the Animals are excited when there is something new in their space.  New usually mean an Enrichment of some sort.  I have a previous post "marker" for an Enrichment piece that explains different types of Enrichment.  I just haven't gotten to it yet.  That said, what I write about now is in regard to Enrichment Toys and Foraging, in regards to this event.

In my opinion any Enrichment Toys that are put out, should be stimulating and somewhat challenging.  I hate to say it, but my friend Lee and I rocked at making Enrichment Toys and (yes I'm going there) I will say, we were Enrichment Toy making Extraordinaires!   We made items that varied in color, shape, and strength, all depending on what Animal we were making for.  

Keeper Sandy did a great job putting the treats out, especially the placement of food items that were scattered and hidden for the Bears to find them by foraging.   The placement of food up in the waterfall area was particularly fun and a challenge for them and  I enjoyed watching that.

Honey on the window, always a favorite!

That said, I have to pick at the "Toy" items, which are no reflection on the Keepers as it is not their level that is responsible for supplying these items.   I don't know who's responsibility it is at this point, but the Zoo has two Staff Employee's whose job title includes "Enrichment", so I would assume it is their responsibility to procure and inspect the Items.  

There were two boxes of the same size in the exhibit.  Below is two photos of one.

By the text I've included on the last photo, I'm sure you know where I'm going with this next paragraph!  Yes, I have a problem with how this box looks, its plain ugly.  Its not fully paint (the other one was paint more but still not fully), there's no real art/theme to it, its not sealed (for challenge purpose), its just awful.  You might think the Animals probably don't care, but thats not true.  Kachina came out, knocked the other box over (which wasn't even as ugly), and ran past it, not even stopping to check what was inside.  Having something that is at the very least colorful, is stimulating.   That said, THE TAPE!!!!   This is a BIG issue!   There is no excuse for this to happen.  NONE!

When we were doing Enrichment Toys, we never even used boxes that came with tape/staples/any adhesives.   The only adhesive we would use was the Paper Mache paste mixture.  SO if they are using "previously used" boxes, someone needs to inspect them for these dangerous items.  WHAT is wrong with whoever is responsible for this?   This inspection needs to be done prior to anyone even starting to decorate an Item that will be used for an Animal.   When we stopped making Enrichments, the first Items the Zoo made and put out were for their Halloween event and they gave the Lions a box that not only had tape, but huge 2 inch STAPLES!!!!  I called this to their attention and there was supposed to be an alert to monitoring this in the future.  This was almost two years ago.  

 Seriously,   I don't think giving an Animal something with Tape on it falls into their new "Wellness Initiative"                                                 

Are they waiting for an Animal to Choke or worse?

Did the recent episode with the female Snow Leopard ingesting a foreign matter and creating an intestinal obstruction, and almost dying not teach them anything?

WHO is running this place?   Are they Lazy, Oblivious or just Brainless?

And whoever is running this place and/or responsible for Enrichment Displays,  you really should plan ahead and at least have something decent to put out on Event Days.  Otherwise, just put the food out for foraging.  These boxes were low rent.  They are fine (without tape/staples)  for an average day, since the Animals rarely get Toys anyway, but for actual events, there should be some nice Toys, that actually look like they reflect the event.  Some Mache Honey Pots/Bee Hives/Bees would have been wonderful.  Use your imagination and solicit Adults, Volunteers and Docents to make things.  If you are going to have Kids paint stuff at least prep the Items by fully painting them and teach Kids to draw simple shapes like Swirls, Hearts, Sun, Peace Signs, ect.  Let's put these crappy Items to rest.


  1. I was completely shocked that the stuff going out for the Grizzly Girls looked like it did. You are right, we rocked when we did enrichments. I also thought the tape was horrible to see and dangerous. They should have had properly painted boxes sealed with peanut butter like they did with our Bear Birthday Enrichments a couple years ago. It was also bad that not a single docent was there for questions and a keeper wasnt there for questions. People were left to figure out on their own what was going on. The foraging for food was nice. Curators should be at these things as representatives. Actually for the time we were there I didnt even see security. Anyway, fun to see the Grizzlies enjoying their day.

  2. @Lee- Thank you for your comment. YES I forgot about the Peanut Butter as adhesive. When your Bee came loose off the cake (Keeper) Dave put it back on with PB. The Bears really worked on their Bday Cakes, not just walking over them to see what else was out there. Its all about making the the Toys fresh. If just boxes, change with size and color. Put things sticking out of them. Cut and reconfigure them. .. You are also right in that for Events, a Curator should be there, since the Keeper is busy putting out stuff. The Curator should be there describing what that and what will happen, as well the benefits of giving Enrichment in this way. ... There is never Security anywhere. They have Security in the Lion House when they don't even let Cats in lol! If they aren't going to have the Cats inside, close the LH and only have it open for the Keeper Talk.


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