While Philadelphia Zoo remains closed, staff keep animals busy with enrichment activities

By KYW Newsradio 1060
PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — While the animals at the Philadelphia Zoo wait for visitors to return, staff members are keeping things interesting for them with enrichment activities. 

Philadelphia is expected to remain in the “yellow” phase of the governor’s reopening plan through at least July 3, but more activities will be permitted in the “yellow” starting June 26, including zoos.

Until then, zookeepers have been consistently looking for new ways to involve the animals in goal-oriented activities.

“The goals that the keepers are always trying to achieve is to encourage natural behavior to the animals under their care,” explained Donna Evernham, curator of carnivores and ungulates. 

They’ve been incorporating puzzle feeders for species that forage for food.

“A keeper could put the diet of a monkey in a box, and put that box in a box. And a box in a box. And so you can imagine that animal is spending some time looking for their food and trying to find the treats that are in there,” she said.

Elise Winterberger takes care of Tony, a white rhino. He kicks around a scented fire hose that is knotted up tightly. He also likes to listen to recorded sounds of the African plains.

“We have tires that we’ll put in there that he’ll push around,” she added. “If you put hay in it … he’ll kind of have to push it around and get it out.”

Meanwhile, the sloth bears sometimes get treats — delivered by way of slingshot into their outdoor exhibit. From the outside of their underwater window, zookeepers dangle springy toys for curious penguins to follow as they swim.

Each activity goes through a safety approval process. A team of curators, veterinarians and dietitians sign off on it before it is introduced to the animals.