San Diego Zoo animals get pumpkin treats to welcome Fall

SAN DIEGO (CNS) – Fall arrived Wednesday at the San Diego Zoo’s Ituri Forest exhibit, where the animals were provided with pumpkins that contained peanut butter and hollowed-out gourds with fish inside.

The animals in the exhibit — which include Allens swamp monkeys, Schmidts red tailed guenons, African spotted-necked otters, red river hogs and a forest buffalo — were given the gourds as a “special enrichment surprise.”

“Enrichment is really important to encourage species-specific behaviors,” said Leslie Steele, an animal keeper at the zoo. “It’s great to give the animals something that’s out of the blue that’s a fun puzzle to figure out, and it’s fun for people to watch too.”

Zookeepers said the otters and the monkeys were particularly interested and spent the morning chasing rolling pumpkins, swimming around floating gourds and picking out pumpkin seeds. Keepers had carved some of the pumpkins to make it easier for the animals to reach in and dig for seeds, but left a few pumpkins solid so the animals would need to work to break them open.

Some of the swamp monkeys kept busy trying to roll the pumpkins around and push them off ledges in hopes of cracking them open.

Enrichment items give animals the opportunity to exercise control of their actions and chose which items they want to play with, according to the zoo.

Animal keepers are planning several enrichment events during weekends this month, part of a special promotion in conjunction with Mission Federal Credit Union. Guests should look for “Beast Treat” signs at certain animal exhibits, which indicate that special enrichment items will be given.

Children 11 years and younger are admitted to the zoo for free this month.

Categories: KUSI