Salisbury Zoo Seeking Christmas Tree Donations

SALISBURY – Caretakers with the Salisbury Zoo are coming up short in gathering old Christmas trees for animal exhibits within the facility.

Jessica O’Neill, zookeeper, said the trees enhance the animals’ wellbeing and provides them with a source of entertainment.

“So the Christmas tree is a form of enrichment,” she said. “Enrichment is anything that is given to an animal that they don’t (get) on a daily basis. It can be anything from a novel food item to a scent to a puzzle feeder.”

The zoo traditionally receives Christmas tree donations from local hardwood stores in the area, according to O’Neill. Yet, this year the facility received less than the typical year.

“In the past, stores have donated trees, but this year they didn’t have any to give us,” she said. “We have a few trees so they will be given to some of the animals for enrichment.”

On average, the zoo collects 10 trees from stores each year following the holiday season, according to O’Neill. As of Wednesday, they have received three.

“We are trying to find a few more,” she said.

Now she is reaching out to the community for the donations and said those trying to get rid of their holiday trees can contribute to the zoo.

She said the trees will introduce animals to new scents and will give them a new toy to play with.

“Like all enrichment, it is beneficial to give them something new to interact with,” O’Neill said.

Zookeepers have plans to place the trees in the bear, bison, wolf and jaguar enclosures, in addition to others.

O’Neill said the trees will be used to develop the animals’ senses.

For predators, like the wolf, this means using the trees to hide food. For the bison, the trees act as a sparing post for its tusks.

“For most animals, it is sensory and tactile enrichment to give them something new to interact with,” she said.

O’Neill said the zoo is looking for a few more tree donations to fulfill their needs, and urged people to call the zoo at 410-548-3188 before contributing.

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

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Bethany Hooper has been with The Dispatch since 2016. She currently covers various general stories. Hooper graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2012 and the University of Maryland in 2016, where she completed double majors in journalism and economics.