Birthday “cakes” for our hoofed friends
Hi everyone, I’m Kennedy, and I recently completed a rotation as a Seasonal Hoofstock Keeper here at the Zoo. I’m here to talk about birthday celebrations. Have you ever visited the Zoo and wondered what the animals were eating that looked fun and not like their normal diets? It most likely was a form of a “cake” to help them celebrate. How does one make an animal-approved “cake” one may ask? Let’s take a dive into how we come up with these special treats.
Every animal here at the Zoo has a list of food items and serving sizes that are approved for them. These lists are determined by our Veterinary Team and Animal Nutrition Kitchen. These items are usually saved for special occasions or used as a form of enrichment. Enrichment is anything that helps animals to use their natural behaviors.
Let’s talk about building the “cake.” This is the time to be creative; there may be a theme in mind or just a fun idea. The first step is to look at the list of approved food items and determine what they want to use, as well as keep in mind what the animals prefer. Once the food items are determined, it is time to gather all the items and start the “cake.” They can be anything from fruits and veggies, frozen together in various shapes and sizes in ice blocks, to something as simple as a bowl of alfalfa (a type of hay) with some beet pulp. The options are endless.
Now that the “cake” is completed, it is now time to give it to the animal. This can be done by placing it in the animal’s habitat before they are shifted onto it or given later in the day once the animals are already out on habitat.
Sometimes the animals eat their “cakes” right away, and other times no matter how much effort you put into them, the animals don’t seem to be interested in them at all. Either way, it is fun to celebrate an animal’s birthday. Next time you visit the Zoo, be on the lookout for special enrichment!
Seasonal Keeper, Mammals