Christmas came early at Belfast Zoo this year with the animals allowed to open up their presents early.
The zoo’s two elderly rescue elephants, the meerkats and the penguins were as excited as kids on Christmas morning after receiving gifts from the zookeepers.
The zoo’s staff made sure to look after the animals during the festive season by wrapping brightly coloured boxes in the form of animal enrichment gifts.
A group of meerkats were seen eagerly rummaging through their boxes which were filled with tasty mealworms.
Dhunja and Yhetto, the zoo’s elephants, made short work of their gifts, which were boxes stuffed with hay, apples and carrots.
The zoo’s gentoo penguins were also treated to bright red boxes which they were a little wary of at first, but curiosity soon took over.
Acting Zoo Manager Andrew Hope, explained: “Animals often tend to get excited whenever they discover something new in their home.
“Some animals dig into their gifts straight away such as the meerkats and the elephants, whereas some are a little more reserved and inquisitive, like the penguins.
“You never quite know what way an animal will respond and it can often be quite funny to see them getting excited.
“Providing the animals with items that they don’t regularly receive, such as colourful wrapped boxes, helps to physically and mentally stimulate the animals.
“This type of enrichment is used to help keep the animals happy and healthy as it encourages natural behaviour and provides stimulation.”
n Visitors can catch more of the animals getting their Christmas treats this weekend (December 18-19). Kids go free for the month of December too (one per paying adult), so there couldn’t be a better time to grab your woolly hats and plan your next trip to Belfast Zoo.
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