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(Courtesy Photo)

Animals at the Spring River Park and Zoo will get to enjoy Christmas throughout December this year as the zoo has expanded its annual gift-giving that provides enrichment for the animals.

Sponsored by Friends of Spring River Zoo, the zoo has planned “25 Days of Zoo Christmas.” Each day, from Dec. 1 through Dec. 26 (taking Christmas Day off), zookeepers will provide three different animals with unique gifts, some of which can be donated by the public.

Friends of Spring River Zoo members will wrap the gifts so the animals can enjoy opening their own Christmas presents throughout the month. Except for Tuesdays when the zoo is normally closed (in December, those days have been designated as members-only days for Friends members), the public is invited to come watch the animals receive and enjoy their gifts.

The 25 days of providing gifts for the animals enables enrichment that promotes the chances of the animals doing more species-specific behaviors, which increase the quality of life for the animals. Examples of such behaviors are foraging, digging, climbing, playing, using the senses and manipulation among others.

For the past five years, the zoo has provided the animals with gifts on a single day just before Christmas. This is the first year the traditional activity will go on every day in December leading to Christmas.

Anyone who would like to contribute a gift for the animals is welcome but should contact zookeeper Andrea Cole ([email protected]) in advance to ensure the item is appropriate for an animal, and to be informed about delivering the item or items to the zoo.

Good gifts to provide are live Christmas trees and wreaths, wrapping paper, and red and green paper and streamers.

Here is the schedule of which animals will receive their gifts on which days. For visitors coming out to watch on Saturdays, Friends of Spring River Zoo and other volunteers will be serving the public hot cocoa on Dec. 1 (beginning at 10 a.m.), Dec. 8 (noon), Dec. 15 (2 p.m.) and Dec. 22 (2:30 p.m.).

• Saturday, Dec. 1 at 10:45 a.m. – longhorn, mountain lion, badger
• Sunday, Dec. 2 at 2 p.m. – black bear, llama, raccoon
• Monday, Dec. 3 at 4 p.m. – bobcat, aoudad sheep, gray fox
• Tuesday, Dec. 4 at noon (Friends members only) – black bear, mountain lion, badger
• Wednesday, Dec. 5 at 2 p.m. – coati, pronghorn, red fox
• Thursday, Dec. 6 at noon – coyote, pony, lemur
• Friday, Dec. 7 at 2 p.m. – goat, wolf, mule deer
• Saturday, Dec. 8 at 12:15 p.m. – longhorn, black bear, badger
• Sunday, Dec. 9 at 10 a.m. – mountain lion, muntjac deer, birds of prey
• Monday, Dec. 10 at 4 p.m. – coyote, bison, lemur
• Tuesday, Dec. 11 at 2 p.m. (Friends members only) – wolf, raccoon, coati
• Wednesday, Dec. 12 at 4 p.m. – bobcat, coyote, gray fox
• Thursday, Dec. 13 at noon – black bear, pronghorn, porcupine
• Friday, Dec. 14 at 2 p.m. – mountain lion, wolf, red fox
• Saturday, Dec. 15 at 2 p.m. – raccoon, coati, lemur
• Sunday, Dec. 16 at noon – black bear, aoudad sheep, gray fox
• Monday, Dec. 17 at noon – wolf, mule deer porcupine
• Tuesday, Dec. 18 at 2 p.m. (Friends members only) – bobcat, bison, longhorn
• Wednesday, Dec. 19 at 2 p.m. – mountain lion, muntjac deer, goat
• Thursday, Dec. 20 at 10 a.m. – coyote, pony, raccoon
• Friday, Dec. 21 at noon – coati, pronghorn, red fox
• Saturday, Dec. 22 at 2 p.m. – black bear, aoudad sheep, badger
• Sunday, Dec. 23 at noon – coyote, llama, gray fox
• Monday, Dec. 24 at 10 a.m. – bobcat, mule deer, lemur
• Wednesday, Dec. 26 at 2 p.m. – mountain lion, wolf, lemur