Big turnout for John Ball Zoo’s Christmas for the Animals

Posted at 3:54 AM, Dec 04, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-04 05:29:08-05

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — John Ball Zoo is closed for the season, but they opened to the public on Saturday for a special 'Christmas for the Animals' celebration. It's a fun way for guests to enjoy the animals in the off season, but it also helps the zoo collect their much needed donations.

A chimpanzee with a Santa hat or a monkey with a Christmas present is a rare sight to see, but that's exactly what happened Saturday at John Ball Zoo.

"It's our big enrichment event," said Erin Sattler, zookeeper. "A lot of our animals are getting Christmas-type of enrichment and we're also taking donated items instead of admission to get in. We'll use those items throughout the year to give our animals enrichment."

Enrichment means anything that changes the animals' environment. Whether that be Jell-O cups for the chimpanzees, fish Popsicles for the otters or presents to open, or sleep in.

"The animals like it because it's different," said Sattler. "It gives them something to play with and something to do. They'll look in all of the Santa hats and see if there's any type of treat in them, they'll eat all of the Jell-O cups. The cups themselves they can rip up and tear and do whatever they want with. The clinker ball we gave them actually has washers inside of it so when they shake it it's going to make a bunch of different noises and they can roll it around."

'Christmas for the Animals' wouldn't be complete without Santa and his reindeer.

"We love seeing the reindeer and all of the kids having fun and the Christmas spirit," said Scott VanWyk. "It's just a lot of fun to see the zoo busy when it's cold out and everyone having fun."

John Ball Zoo receives most of their enrichment donations during Christmas for the animals. The number of donations will likely surpass years past with the incredibly large turnout on Saturday.

"It's a lot of fun because we do this every single day, but people don't always get to see what we're doing," said Sattler. "We save some of the really big stuff for today and then throughout the year we'll do it as well. All of the items people are donating we're going to use throughout the year. The Jell-O that the chimps have was donated last year at Christmas time. We use it throughout the entire year. Especially the things like toys, the animals do break them down overtime so anytime we get new toys is always exciting."

The John Ball Zoo is always in need of donations. If you would like to donate, check out the list of items they need below.

Animal Supplies:

  • Hunting lures, perfumes
  • Aspen bedding, wood wool
  • Parrot toys, cuttle bones, bird toys of any kind, suet, plastic chain bells
  • Socks
  • Kong toys, 100% cotton mop heads, whiffle balls
  • All natural grapevine wreaths/balls
  • Milk crates
  • Paper cups
  • Compostable yard waste bags
  • Chews

Zookeeper Supplies

  • Carabineer clips, quick links
  • PVC (unused with no glue or primer)
  • Thick plastic plant saucers
  • Portable speakers

Extra, New & Different Food Items:

  • Dried fruits
  • Granola bars
  • Cereal
  • Mixed nuts in a shell, unsalted
  • Raw nuts, unsalted
  • Herbs & spices
  • Cooking Extracts
  • Dog Treats
  • Graham Crackers
  • Saltine crackers
  • Kool-Aid packets, sugar free Jell-O
  • Jelly, jams
  • Oatmeal
  • Peanut butter
  • Steak sauce, salad dressing, salsa
  • Pickles
  • Syrup, honey