On October 15 I attended the Woodland Park Zoo’s first Animal Enrichment class for adults, where we visited some of the enclosures and listened to stories and information on what the zoo does in the form of enrichment for the animals.
Enrichment is a way of breaking up the daily or weekly routine for the animals, offering them variety and stimulation. It often takes the form of new smells to explore in their enclosure, discovery of hidden food which stimulates foraging, or new tastes.
And on the following Saturday the lions had something new to look forward to — a very special zebra-inspired pinata which our group created. I say zebra-inspired, because no matter how hard Debbie Noyes and I tried, even putting ears on it, the zebra head — formed over a balloon — looked more like a tiger than a zebra when finished. I assumed the lions would be more interested in the meat prize inside than in how it looked, and that they would be able to feel the loving care everyone took in the pinata’s creation. (Debbie and I also infused it with a little Reiki for extra goodness.) Creating it was lots of fun, and made me recall how much I used to enjoy arts and crafts. Guess I got some enrichment, too!
Our guide, Nicole Ivey, shared with us that it took a year to get the class approved. The biggest factor was ensuring that all the elements that went into the pinata would not be harmful to the animals. Created solely from paper, flour, water, paper towel rolls and a cardboard box which had been carefully examined for glue or staples, and decorated with non-toxic paints and crayons, our pinata was left to dry for several days before the balloon was popped and checked to ensure that all parts of it had been removed.
This past Saturday we got to see how lion Hubert and lioness Kalisa enjoyed our zebra pinata. Nicole had told us that Kalisa had not previously been interested, that Hubert had been the one to go for the test lure (see video clip). As we were to find out shortly, all that was about to change, dramatically!
Kalisa was first on the scene, alerted by the sound of the keeper preparing the zebra pinata for its run down the zip line, and took up her position directly beneath the zebra’s starting line. She was joined by Hubert, and the two seemed to share a moment, strategizing their hunting approach, while up above the pinata prepares for the chase.
Hubert and Kalisa stand shoulder to shoulder, and as the zebra pinata begins its run Kalisa makes her move, surprising everyone. Launching herself from a boulder she leapt for the pinata, soaring well above Hubert’s head. Neatly knocking the head of the pinata off, she dislodged her meat prize, and with it clenched in her jaws, head held high, she proudly strutted off to enjoy her “kill.”
Hubert took a more patient approach, preparing himself for the end of the pinata’s run where he neatly removes the body (legs still attached) from the line, and disembowels it for his meaty prize.
By this point I think everyone in the group was little breathless from the unexpected excitement of the chase and Kalisa’s leap. As the lions fed it was clear that a good time was had by all, except perhaps the pinata. Its life was brief, but its fame lives on in photos and memory.
To see the photos of Stalking the Zebra Pinata click here.
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©2011 Rose De Dan. All Rights Reserved. www.reikishamanic.com
Think Outside the Cage
Rose De Dan, Wild Reiki and Shamanic Healing LLC, is a mesa carrier in the Peruvian shamanic tradition. In addition she is also a Reiki Master Teacher, animal communicator, author of the acclaimed book Tails of a Healer: Animals, Reiki and Shamanism, and creator of Animal and Reiki Art. As an animal shaman, she views her role as a healer as one of building bridges between people and animals, and of empowering them to reconnect with Pachamama, Mother Earth.
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