What do Mr. Potato Head, Connect 4, a Learn-To-Play Piano and a remote-control Rubber Ducky have in common? If your answer is, “Classic Christmas toys for kids,” you’re partially correct.
As it turns out, these playthings are also great gifts for animals. “Enrichment is one of the most important ways the Tennessee Aquarium provides extraordinary animal care,” said Sara Carlson, the Aquarium’s manager of behavioral husbandry and animal encounter programs. “All animals lead very unpredictable lives in the natural world. It’s very normal for them to work for their food and stay alert in their ever-changing world, so we use enrichment items to stimulate their minds and senses.”
Whether it’s building a rope swing for the Hyacinth Macaws, providing a tortoise with a tasty new treat, or asking the Giant Pacific Octopus to use its incredible smarts to solve puzzles, enrichment is a full-time job. “Enrichment also encourages our staff to get creative,” said Carlson. “Our crows have very quick minds so our experts have to keep coming up with ways to outwit them with puzzles they solve for tasty prizes. Owls on the other hand may not have the same level of intelligence, but it’s important to present them with items that help stimulate their excellent vision and hearing.”
Even though an octopus has ink, it can’t write a letter to Santa listing all of the toys the otters, penguins, macaws and other animals would like this year. So the Aquarium’s animal experts have put together an Amazon Wish List of more than 300 enrichment items for these adorably deserving creatures.
What do you get for “Velcro,” a Flying Squirrel who has everything? His fans might think about purchasing a small animal activity playground that’s on the Wishlist. “Taz,” the Aquarium’s Kookaburra, loves pouncing on soft objects. The Lovely Mummy and Baby Rubber Bear Squeaky toy would be a great stocking stuffer for this feathered friend. And, there’s more than 70 items to choose that will help keep the otters entertained. “Tuffy the Destructosaurus is actually a dog toy, but we think Maya, Benny and the other otters would love to carry this plush toy around,” said Carlson.
All of the items have been carefully chosen to meet enrichment goals while being safe for the individual animals. Visitors can pick out a Wish List ornament from the special giving tree, located at the Aquarium’s members entrance, or, simply shop online for their favorite creatures at: http://amzn.to/1j8dNlu
Aquarium guests will feel like jolly elves seeing the items they purchased being enjoyed by the animals during special enrichment programs throughout the New Year.