B.E. Creative with Nutrition Services

Written by Danielle, Behavioral Enrichment & Animal Welfare Coordinator

Behavioral Enrichment (B.E. for short) is a crucial part of a keeper’s responsibilities while taking care of the animals here at the Zoo,
but B.E. is not limited just to the keepers. B.E. can be anything that stimulates the five senses and elicits natural behaviors. Things like the sound of music, smells of another species, seeing something colorful, touching a different texture, and tasting, that’s right tasting, novel foods all fall into B.E..

Nutrition staff Photo

The Nutrition Services staff know all about food. Not only do they take care of the daily diets, but they also work with the keeper staff to provide novel food items to the animals. Mustard, ketchup, honey, fruits, veggies, nuts, you name it, they got it-or if they don’t,
they know where to get it! More than that, the staff are a group of enthusiastic individuals that are looking to celebrate the species
in our care in unique ways!

They can, and have, created amazing treats for special occasions and are always looking for new, fun ways to show off their skills!
Utilizing an animal’s diet, they help keepers provide unique presentations of their food in order to enrich the individuals. Ice treats are a fun and easy thing for them to do and there is an infinite amount of creative possibilities within the treats. They can be made from milk, blood, Gatorade, chicken broth, diluted juices, etc. Utilizing different molds, they create elaborate shapes, and even not using elaborate molds, they carve unique designs into the components, and utilize different techniques to truly make each individual one special. 

You may have seen some of their recent creations during Halloween and Orangutan Caring Week, and these are just two examples of ways that Nutrition Services truly excels at working with the keepers to enrich our animals. We are thankful to have some creative individuals in the kitchen and look forward to all of the future creations!

B.E. in the Wild

Auggie’s Picnic Basket

What a feast! To celebrate Andean bear Auggie’s second birthday, Nutrition Services staff provided a picnic that made all our mouths water! Complete with a carved watermelon picnic basket, jicama and sweet potato sandwiches, and carrot utensils, Auggie’s diet was reimagined and presented in a unique way to provide him with a novel and fun experience!


Orangutan Caring Week Treats

Ricky Estrada, Diet Technician I, created a circular ice treat made from purple and orange Gatorade with grapes and strawberries, cut to look like flowers, on top of a cucumber lime Gatorade cactus.

Michael the Bornean orangutan really enjoyed this tasty treat!


Hanging Ice Treat

Look at that technique! Nutrition Services staff are able to create elaborate ice treats, such as this one, through various methods including freezing in layers, utilizing different liquids to create different colors and flavors, freezing diet items, and even freezing a chain in the treat so it can be hung!


Decorative Flower in a Pan

It’s not what you think! This may look like a beautiful flower design, but in reality it is soaked “biscuits” made to look like one! This sweet treat was made from the daily diet of our siamangs, who receive a leaf-eater biscuit that is specifically designed for them to better reflect the nutrients they would be receiving from items they would eat in the wild. This dish is not only visually appealing, but for the siamangs, it is yummy too!

Yam Hand

Is it a vegetable? Is it a hand? It’s a yam hand! This Halloween, our Nutrition Services staff got extra spooky by carving Porter the African crested porcupine’s yam into a life-sized human hand! Warning, no humans were harmed in the making of this item! But, oh boy, did they get the detail right; All the way down to the nail!