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Thank you for all the ‘tree-mendous’ donations

Date: 05 Feb 2018

Animal enrichment at Belfast Zoo

The January blues were nowhere to be seen here last month.

After Christmas we put out a call for you to donate your natural Christmas trees to be used for animal enrichment and were overwhelmed with the response when several hundred trees arrived!

Zoo curator, Raymond Robinson, said “The Christmas trees are a great form of enrichment for many of the animals. They are extremely tactile, have a strong scent, can be used for the animals to sleep and shelter under and are also a good snack for some of the larger animals! The festive firs have already started to be used around the Cave Hill site and will be given to a variety of animals including the big cats, elephants, apes, primates and birds. When the animals have finished with the trees, they will be chipped down into bark to ‘spruce’ up the animal enclosures. It’s been great to see the public get behind the project and it’s fantastic that our visitors are able to say that their tree went straight from their living room to the elephant enclosure!”

Zoo manager, Alyn Cairns, said “We have been absolutely overwhelmed by the support that we have received from the public and local businesses. Several hundred trees were donated and are already being put to good use. Enrichment is used to encourage natural behaviours and to provide stimulation within the animal’s environment. Our keepers work on producing innovative enrichment techniques for all of the species that we care for. For example, our Asian elephant have pipes hidden in the sand which they have to put their trunks into to find their treats, the chimpanzees and gorillas love to play with old sheets and clothing, the big cats and bears enjoy sacks filled with different scents and we also have a range of enrichment feeding equipment including wobble feeder trees and artificial termite mounds.”

Alyn continues “Enrichment is a key part of providing the best care possible for our animals. We have an enrichment group which is made up of zoo staff who are passionate about developing new ideas and re-purposing items for animal enrichment purposes. In fact, Belfast Zoo was recently awarded the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquaria (BIAZA) Animal Behaviour Training Working Group Annual Small Grant Award in 2017. As winner of this annual grant, Belfast Zoo received enrichment equipment, books, resources and training from leading industry experts. We would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for their support with our Christmas tree enrichment project!”

We can also use a range of items to create enrichment. You can donate:

  • clothes
  • bed sheets, duvet covers, pillow cases
  • logs
  • cardboard carpet tubes
  • cardboard tubes
  • unused pet toys
  • tools
  • fire hose
  • hanging baskets
  • unbreakable mirrors
  • clear plastic tubes
  • pine cones
  • sacks
  • bungee cord
  • brush or mop heads (natural materials only)
  • netting
  • barrels
  • kongs

We will be sharing images and videos of the animals enjoying the trees on their social media channels (Facebook and Instagram) over the next few weeks!

If you would like more information, call us on 028 9077 6277 or email