Giving Trees Help Treat Zoo Animals For The Holidays

Thanks to individual donors in the community, the animals are getting some of their favorite things.

If you're in Topeka, KS this time of year, you might have come across Christmas giving trees that are displayed in local stores and businesses.

The requests hanging from the tree branches aren't for toys, however, but for items like frozen peas, yogurt-covered raisins and taco seasoning, all of which (when purchased) fulfill the holiday "wish lists" of animals at the Topeka Zoo.

For the past few years a handful of businesses in Topeka have participated in the Animal Giving Tree program to help make sure the animals get a special treat for the holidays.

"This is about our third or fourth year of doing this," Terry Fleer, store manager of the Seabrook Apple Market told CJOnline. "The tree usually goes up the Thursday or Friday before Thanksgiving and continues until at least Christmas. The store owners Kent Conwell and Fred Biesemeyer like to do this; they like to help the public."

Each year the zoo gives participating businesses a list of specific requests for its inhabitants, and the cards on the trees list which animals will benefit from each item.

For example, Avus, the zoo's lion, wants taco seasoning this year. Mawus the orangutan is hoping for barbecue sauce and Johnson the bobcat would like to celebrate the holiday with bags of frozen berries.

The items are meant to stimulate the animals' senses, and while the staff tries to introduce new items to the animals' environments daily, it's not always possible with the funds that are available to them.

"We are extremely fortunate that the zoo is located in a very generous community," zoo director Brendan Wiley said. "Not only are these items part of our enrichment program to stimulate different senses, they are also items hard to justify in a regular budget."

The program has been growing since it started five years ago, and each year more and more businesses sign on to participate. This year, the zoo's volunteers have handled all aspects of the program, including organizing, tree decorating and tree delivery.

Here are the tigers, enjoying their favorite scent, thanks to a generous donor...

"We are fortunate to have such a great group of volunteers," Wiley said. "This is just one more way they help us."

If you're in the Topeka area and would like to take part in the Animal Giving Tree Program, you can visit the Topeka Zoo's Facebook page for a list of participating businesses.

If you're not in the area, you can check with your local zoo or animal shelter to see if they have a Giving Tree program set up or opportunities to fill a pet's stocking for the holiday.

You might also consider donating pet supplies to a local shelter or ASPCA .

Let's work together and #StartSomethingGood.

(Source: photos & images Topeka Zoo Facebook)

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