Thursday, December 11, 2008

Holiday Wishes Go Wild at Zoo Atlanta

The season’s wildest holiday wishers don’t want iPhones, don’t own a Wii, and don’t have the slightest use for the latest in cutting-edge digital must-haves. Boomer balls, puzzle feeders, ribbons, bells and mirrors are much more their thing. Where the clientele is wild, so is the wish list, and with the return of Zoo Atlanta’s annual Giving Tree program, secret Santas and animal lovers across the city have the opportunity to provide surprises for over 850 mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians.

Originally conceived as a means of allowing Zoo staff, Members and Volunteers to contribute holiday gifts for their favorite animals, Zoo Atlanta’s Giving Tree has expanded considerably in recent years. Located in the Zoo’s Administration Building, the tree is decorated to the hilt with handmade ornaments bearing images and descriptions of enrichment items for Zoo residents. Diverse in shape, size, use and cost (Giving Tree options are created to suit any personal budget, with the least expensive beginning at around $3), each wish list item has been selected with the sole intent of generating the interest, curiosity, play and enjoyment of a particular Zoo animal or species.

In the Zoo industry, the term “enrichment” refers to objects, activities or opportunities that encourage natural animal behaviors similar to those observed in the wild. Toys, puzzle feeders and novel foods, scents or sounds are all examples of items or experiences offered to spark animal interest and promote physical and emotional well-being. All of Zoo Atlanta’s animals enjoy enrichment on a daily basis through a comprehensive program managed by their animal management teams. Consistently unusual, always creative and often ingenious, these regular labors of love by the Zoo’s animal care professionals include swings made of fire hose for great apes; non-toxic paints for animal artists; and even hand-crafted faux “birds’ nests” for the World of Reptiles’ black mamba. Enrichment, in turn, enriches observers: Zoo guests enjoy unique insights into animal behavior, cognition and problem-solving.

Members of the community interested in contributing to the 2008 Giving Tree program are encouraged to visit zooatlanta.org for details and a complete wish list of items. Guests may also visit the Giving Tree in the Zoo Atlanta Administration Building to select ornaments or drop off items on weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Those purchasing wish list gifts online are asked to arrange delivery directly to Zoo Atlanta at the following address: Zoo Atlanta; Attention: Jodi Carrigan/Giving Tree Program; 800 Cherokee Avenue, S.E., Atlanta GA 30315. Giving Tree donations will be accepted through December 31, 2008.

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