Here at the Zoo, we’re wild about animal enrichment!
Recently, a special tree was created for the Zoo’s squirrel monkey family in an effort to enhance their habitat and provide them with a unique, but realistic experience.
The OKC Zoo’s squirrel monkey family consists of sisters Bobby and Katrina, and their three brothers, Floyd, Felix and Hugo.
The new tree will offer several enrichment options – serving as a climbing structure, a cooling mechanism and a new way to offer diets, so the monkeys can forage naturally, according to Kim Leser, Zoo curator of behavior and enrichment.
Leser oversees all aspects of behavior for every animal in the Zoo’s care. She conducts animal training sessions, implements new animal enrichment curriculum and trains animal caretakers to ensure the maximum health and safety of more than 1,300 animals within the Zoo.
Leser proposed the idea to create this unique element to the Zoo’s exhibit installation department this summer.
“Our graphics team is a great partner and is always willing to try new things to provide our animals with unique experiences,” Leser said.
Jerry Webb, manager of the Zoo’s graphic team, said he thought the tree would be a great opportunity to improve an existing exhibit. Although they had not created anything like it before, Webb and his team were up for the challenge.
“We used wood to construct the base and platform, which are connected by a metal pipe, and PVC pipe to create the hollow cooling branches, said Webb. “To cover the branches, we used wire mesh, spray foam, Zoopoxy to create a hard shell, and finally, non-toxic paint.”
The department worked over a 5-week period to design and create every detail of the spider monkey troop’s one-of-a-kindtree.
“Developing new alternatives to camouflage enrichment elements allows for our animal care teams to offer their animals different textures,” Leser said. “It also serves as a visual simulation, similar to what they would encounter in their natural environment.”
Guests will be able to see the squirrel monkeys’ new habitat feature in the coming weeks. The troop can be found playing inside the Children’s Zoo, near the lorikeets and spider monkeys.
– Kim Leser, Zoo curator of behavior and enrichment and Jerry Webb, manager of exhibit installation