Why the Toronto Zoo would like you to get its lion Axe physique spray for Xmas

What does a zoo penguin want for Christmas? A hula hoop.

Cedric the wattled crane desires a xylophone. And Fintan the lion? Axe physique spray.

These are the merchandise on Hollie Ross’s Xmas shopping listing. Every single yr, the Toronto Zoo’s behavioural husbandry supervisor gathers a record of objects place together by zookeepers and posts them to the zoo’s website, hoping solution Santas will phase up with the funds to fund an additional calendar year of specialised toys for the animals in their treatment.

The zookeepers make their requests centered on investigate, observation and knowledge of their expenses. It is component of the swiftly rising subject of animal enrichment, which seeks to preserve animals not only properly-fed and perfectly-housed, but also interested in their environment, to avert them from getting bored.

“Our toys are typically for mammals, birds and some reptiles, but each individual animal on website has some type of enrichment,” states Ross.

“Even our fowl-consuming spider has an enriched surroundings.”

Zookeepers use the hula hoops to develop underwater playgrounds for the penguins. They can also string fire hoses underwater, weighing them down at distinctive levels to generate pretend kelp forests. They use the very same methods to keep otters amused.

Like most mother and father at Christmas, Ross hits up Walmart, Toys R Us and Amazon for toys and retains an eye out for sales, but toys for big mammals are specialty-designed, with additional resistance to fangs and claws.

The Toronto Zoo introduced the Supplying Tree in 2018, allowing for readers to add towards a toy for a zoo animal and in exchange, obtain an ornament they could give as a gift. The to start with yr raised $3,000. Revenue jumped right after the method was moved on line in 2019, producing $14,000 past year.

Zoo animals are given toys all calendar year-spherical — the Christmas angle is to crank out general public fascination in the thought of animal enrichment.

Jeff Otto says the area of animal enrichment has been developing at a rate of about 10 for every cent a calendar year since he launched Otto Environmental in 1995. The Milwaukee-based mostly company sells a vary of animal equipment, enclosures and toys, like chew tires that can stand up to tigers, tipsy tops for bears that go unpredictably — like prey in the wild — and wobbly weebles for elephants, that stand 36-inches high and weigh 90 kilograms. Costs array widely, from inexpensive chew toys to more than $1,200 for a thing that can endure a grizzly.

Otto suggests U.S. Countrywide Institutes of Health and fitness regulations and updates mandating animal enrichment in excess of the yrs helped launch and sustain the craze. He believes curiosity is also remaining fuelled by the recognition of nature demonstrates like the BBC’s “Our Planet” and by the ubiquity of cellphones outfitted with cameras, which have produced it probable for anybody who takes place to be in the suitable spot at the ideal time to seize animal behaviours and share them on social media platforms, wherever they are considered by thousands and thousands.

Toy progress is centered on animal behaviours in the wild — and much more anecdotal and scientific info is staying added to that physique of information each 12 months.

Orangutans in the wild have been noticed generating improvised whistles from bundles of leaves gorillas use strolling sticks octopuses use coconut shells as armour. The proof has encouraged zookeepers to imagine much more broadly in terms of animal environments and to look at what toys may possibly assistance them specific their natural behaviours.

For case in point, the new orangutan show at the Toronto Zoo, scheduled to open next spring, will consist of a vending machine. Tokens for the vending machine will be concealed in their enclosure, forcing the orangutans to forage for the tokens, which they will then have to use on the machine to get their food items. Zookeeper Amanda Carroll suggests the activity will support the orangutans keep curious and active.

The orangutans also like combs they like portray their faces with chalk they appreciate to drape materials in excess of their heads — all items on their 2021 Christmas record.

The zoo is on the lookout at introducing Cecil the crane to a xylophone, in element primarily based on proof that hens locate xylophones interesting — Amazon even sells xylophones specifically designed for chicken coops.

And although Fintan enjoys Axe, Kanzi the noticed hyena enjoys Calvin Klein’s Obsession.

“I do not know what it is about Obsession, but it appears to be to be a common favorite for huge cats,” explained Ross. “They in fact use it in the wild for digital camera traps.”

The scents induce a all-natural olfactory reaction in the cats, observed in the wild, but also in their domesticated counterparts.

The animal enrichment development is also driving product sales at pet suppliers.

“I do see it as a advancement sector,” suggests Ruth Heathcote, operator of Wag on the Danforth.

“I think that persons see that their animals truly need to have to be engaged. They need to have some type of stimulus in get to have a fulfilled daily life.”

Francine Kopun is a Toronto-based mostly reporter masking metropolis hall and municipal politics for the Star. Comply with her on Twitter: @KopunF

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