Animals at the Cotswold Wildlife Park & ​​Gardens receive Christmas treats

Animals at an Oxfordshire wildlife park got into the Christmas spirit this week.

Keepers at the Cotswolds Wildlife Park and Gardens in Burford, home to nearly 100 different species, provided the animals with fir cones stuffed with grapes and stockings containing mealworms.

Photographs taken at the park also show chief ranger Mark Godwin and his children, Molly and Henry, hanging up stockings for the rhinos.

Park and Gardens” alt=”Oxford Mail: Chief Warden Mark Godwin and his children, Molly and Henry, hung stockings for the rhinos. Image: Cotswold Wildlife Park and Gardens” class=”editor-image”/>Chief Warden Mark Godwin and his children, Molly and Henry, hung stockings for the rhinos. Image: Cotswold Wildlife Park and Gardens

Although the park is closed to visitors on Christmas Day, the work behind the scenes does not slow down during the holiday season and the keepers continue to provide care and stimulation to the animals.

Natalie Horner, head of primates and small mammals at the Cotswold Wildlife Park, told the Oxford Mail that Christmas Day is “pretty much like any other day” for park staff.

She said: ‘The keepers are here to ensure the animals are fed, watered and cared for to their usual high standards. Christmas Day is usually a bit shorter for us so that we can go home and start our own Christmas celebrations, but our main priority is obviously to make sure the animals are okay.

“We do enrichment every day throughout the year for animals as part of our day-to-day role, but at Christmas we can get more creative and a little silly with it.

“We have lots of stocking stuffers, crackers and gifts that we can hide pets’ favorite treats in. For some of them, like meerkats, they love to investigate anything and everything you give them.

Wildlife Park and Gardens” alt=”Oxford Mail: Male Tamandua Tito with primate and small mammal keeper Hayley. Image: Cotswold Wildlife Park and Gardens” class=”editor-image”/>Male Tamandua Tito with primate and small mammal keeper Hayley. Image: Cotswold Wildlife Park and Gardens

“Christmas cookies, for example, we can hide mealworms, crickets and locusts in them and it’s really fun to watch the meerkats tear them apart to find the food inside.

“For our smarter species, like our primates, we can give them a puzzle feeder or hang something from their display, like a stocking. It is always interesting to see how they understand this element of enrichment and how they interact with it.

Other enrichment activities the park has done for animals in the past include burying objects in snow and building snowmen with treats hidden inside.

Oxford Mail: A ring-tailed lemur enjoying its Christmas enrichment.  Image: Cotswold Wildlife Park and GardensA ring-tailed lemur enjoying its Christmas enrichments. Image: Cotswold Wildlife Park and Gardens

Festive themed activities and broader enrichment activities are not without reason and serve an important welfare purpose for the animals cared for by the park.

Ms Horner explained that although the park does its best to look after the animals, they are still captive and so it is important to ‘boost stimulation’ to ensure they remain ‘in good mental and physical health. “.

These activities also serve a dual purpose for human visitors to the park as they raise questions about the species, their natural environments and their behaviors.

Questions like these allow rangers to educate people about the animals and the various conservation projects the park is involved in around the world.

Check out more photos below:

Oxford Mail: Ring-tailed lemurs enjoying their Christmas enrichments of pine cones stuffed with grapes.  Image: Cotswold Wildlife Park and GardensRing-tailed lemurs enjoying their Christmas enrichments of grape-stuffed pine cones. Image: Cotswold Wildlife Park and Gardens

Oxford Mail: Photo: Cotswold Wildlife Park & ​​GardensImage: Cotswold Wildlife Park and Gardens

Oxford Mail: Henry was modeling his elf outfit.  Image: Cotswold Wildlife Park and GardensHenry was modeling his elf outfit. Image: Cotswold Wildlife Park and Gardens

Oxford Mail: Male Tamandua Tito with primate and small mammal keeper Hayley.  Image: Cotswold Wildlife Park and GardensMale Tamandua Tito with primate and small mammal keeper Hayley. Image: Cotswold Wildlife Park and Gardens

Oxford Mail: Photo: Cotswold Wildlife Park & ​​GardensImage: Cotswold Wildlife Park and Gardens

Oxford Mail: Photo: Cotswold Wildlife Park & ​​GardensImage: Cotswold Wildlife Park and Gardens

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