On October 15, 2011, 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 would have something new to look forward to—a very special zebra-inspired piñata which our group created. I say zebra-inspired, because no matter how hard Debbie Noyes and I tried (even putting ears on it), the balloon-shaped head still 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 hoped that they would be able to feel the loving care everyone took in the piñata’s creation. (Debbie and I also infused it with a little Reiki for extra goodness.)
Creating the piñata was lots of fun, and made me recall how much I used to enjoy arts and crafts. Guess I received 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 piñata 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 piñata was left to dry for several days before the balloon was popped and checked to ensure that all parts of it had been removed.
The next Saturday we got to see how lion Hubert and lioness Kalisa enjoyed our zebra piñata. Nicole had told us that on previous tests Kalisa had not been interested—Hubert had been the one to give it a go (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 piñata for its run, and took up her position directly beneath the zebra’s starting line. She was joined by Hubert, and the two shared a moment, perhaps strategizing their hunting approach. Up above, the piñata prepared for the chase.
Hubert and Kalisa stood shoulder-to-shoulder, and as the zebra pinata began its run, Kalisa made her move, surprising everyone. Strategically using a boulder as her launch point, Kalisa leapt skyward for the pinata, soaring well above Hubert’s head.
Neatly knocking the head of the pinata off, Kalisa dislodged her meat prize, and with it clenched in her jaws, head proudly held high, she strutted off to enjoy her “kill.”
Hubert took a more patient approach, placing himself at the end of the pinata’s run. Casually reaching up, he neatly removed the body (legs still attached) from the line, and disemboweled it to enjoy 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 piñata. Its life was brief, but its fame lives on in photos and memory.
See the rest of the photos of Stalking the Zebra Pinata.
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A WILD WAY TO HEAL
Rose De Dan, Wild Reiki and Shamanic Healing LLC, is an animal communicator, Reiki Master Teacher, shamanic energy healer, and author. Her classes, sessions and ceremonial work are inspired by wild and domestic animals who have issued a call to action for personal and global healing.
Her book Tails of a Healer: Animals, Reiki and Shamanism features heartwarming stories about animals and their role in her evolution as an energy worker and shamanic healer.