Determined to celebrate Valentine’s Day with the animals of the Woodland Park Zoo, a crowd of hearty Washingtonians scoffed at the wind and rain last Saturday to watch animals share Valentine’s Day-themed treats like heart-shaped boxes filled with fruit, heart-shaped fruit wreaths and heart-shaped ice pops.
The annual event is what’s called “thematic enrichment,” according to zoo spokesperson Gigi Allianic. “Enrichment is the process of creating a challenging environment to address an animal’s social, psychological and physical needs,” Allianic said. She added that such events contribute to successful breeding of endangered species in captivity and connecting zoo visitors to the animals. “It’s an opportunity for visitors to learn about behavioral enrichment,” Allianic said.
Allianic said themed events are not only a great way for visitors to learn about the zoo’s animals, but is also an important part of caring for the animals. “It reinforces natural behavior such as exploring and foraging and is a part of the daily care program,” Allianic said.
While Valentine’s Day at the zoo is a hit with heart-shaped treats being fed to the animals, Allianic said it’s not the only event that draws a crowd. The zoo offers other events on Easter, Fourth of July, Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas.