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Animals get treats as gift for Christmas at zoo

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Senior Zoo Keeper Andrea Cole plays Santa with a raccoon Saturday morning, giving it Christmas presents of a pumpkin filled with mealworms and superworms and a wrapped box with meat. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

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Worms and pumpkins and meat bones made up the Christmas wish list for some at the Spring River Park and Zoo.

Ducks stand along the walkway near St. Nicholas Station at Spring River Zoo. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

The Roswell city zoo held its fifth annual Zoo Animal Gift Giving event Saturday morning, inviting the public to watch zoo staff distribute wreaths, trees, fruit, a teddy bear dampened in oil for rubbing, and other goodies, some of which came wrapped in boxes “taped” with cream cheese.

“It is part of an enrichment program we do every year,” said zoo Superintendent Marge Woods. “It is just fun. It is fun for people to see the animals and for the community to be involved.”

The enrichment aspect is for the animals and will be enhanced in 2018, according to zoo staff. They intend to introduce more games, toys and activities to provide mental and physical challenges for many of their estimated 191 specimens.

More than 50 kids and adults withstood temperatures in the high 40s to gather around cages and habitats as lemurs, a coyote, wolves, bobcats, a badger, a coati, mountain lions and black bears played with and ate their treats.

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A crowd favorite were the two mountain lions, who struggled to keep their large pumpkins from rolling down their enclosure into the cold water in the grotto.

“The kids love the zoo, so this was something different for us to do,” said Frances Aragones of Dexter to explain her reasons for attending.

One girl proclaimed the gifts “gross,” but her mother explained that they animals were getting what they liked, not what she would want under the tree.

Woods said the event has grown each year. According to staff, local families and members of the Friends of the Zoo donate most of the food, trees, wreaths and wrapping paper.

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 310, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.