Icy Treats for Enrichment Day!

Written by Phyllis Pietrucha-Mays, Animal Nutrition SupervisorElias making ice-pops

Did you know that the Animal Nutrition department here at the Houston Zoo is also involved in helping the animal sections with daily enrichment?  One of their top requests is for their famous ice-pops!

The Animal Nutrition Department staff definitely enjoy making ice-pops for the Houston Zoo’s animals.

This is normally done throughout the summer months and for special events. All staff members not only hold the title of Animal Nutrition Zookeeper but are all considered “ Ice-Poptologists.” They are always looking for ways to give the animals enrichment and ice-pops are a big hit. It keeps the animals cool, but also stimulates them mentally and physically. The ice-poptologists use different treats such as sunflower seeds, currants, assorted produce or fish, colored waters, decaf fruit teas, and sugar free Kool-Aid. The animals may lick the ice, turn it over or push it trying to get out what ever treat might be in there. Ice-pops come in an assortment of sizes from a 3 oz. cup to a 55 gallon bucket depending on the animal receiving the icy treat.

This year, orangutan keeper, Tammy Burhmester took a bag of assorted toys, consisting of loofah sponges, toothbrushes and rubber duckies to the Animal Nutrition staff. Elias Cantu is the Animal Nutrition keeper in charge of making orangutan ice-pops. He chooses a toy and adds it to the bucket along with sugar free Kool-Taylor making bear icepopAid and a chain to hang it in the exhibit. Visitors have fun watching the orangutans as they lick the ice to see what the prize is.

Taylor Mullikin, an Animal Nutrition keeper, is the ice-poptologist for bear ice-pops. She switches off between fish and assorted produce and adds colored water and sprinkles to her creations.

The Houston Zoo animals get these amazing icy treats all thanks to TXU Energy Presents Chill Out.



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