There aren't many places where a coffee filter would make an ideal Christmas gift, but it will at the Oklahoma City Zoo.
The zoo has set up its Wild Wish List tree with ornaments visitors can take that tell them what to buy on an animal's wish list. All of the items are geared toward animal enrichment and not day-to-day care. Items can also be purchased on the zoo's wish list at amazon.com.
For example, on the parrot's ornament is a wish for coffee filters. The sea lions have aquatic toys like Boomer Balls and a large inflatable raft that is designed for zoo animals.
“Parrots love color and things that are stimulating,” zookeeper Shannon Ray said. “They like things that can pull apart with their beaks. And on the opposite end you have seals and sea lions who love aquatic toys that they can explore and climb on or push around.”
These aren't typical inflatable beach balls, which Ray said wouldn't last more than five minutes with a sea lion. The Boomer Balls are heavy polyethylene toys that are specially made for large exotic animals.
“These enrichment toys have to be durable,” Ray said. “That durability sometimes makes them expensive but we have a range of options for guests to pick out and donate.”
Veterinarian Alicia Hahn said enrichment of animals is important to their physical and mental well-being. Thought was put into each item, making sure it is specific to a species is important. That can mean giving dig boxes for animals that like to dig or scents that stimulate animals with an acute sense of smell.
“With enrichment we're trying to prevent boredom and stimulate the animals,” Hahn said. “The best way to do that is to have something that helps them mimic their natural behavior.”
All items are researched and approved by the veterinary staff.
“The keepers come up with the ideas, and then we make sure each item is healthy and safe,” Hahn said.
Those who want to donate, but can't make it to the zoo to pick out an ornament can help through amazon.com and search for Oklahoma City Zoo. Or, they can go to www.okczoo.com for a direct link. Items on the amazon.com list will be left there all year long.
Zoo spokeswoman Tara Henson said the zoo has a budget for enrichment items but donations from the public help the zoo stretch its resources.
“It's an opportunity for the community to get involved,” Henson said. “People donate often because a particular animal means something to them, and their donated items allows us to use funds elsewhere to benefit the animals.”