Simply Science: Minnesota Zoo uses unique methods to keep animals healthy, happy

APPLE VALLEY, Minn. - Keeping zoo animals healthy and happy is a daily task for staff at the Minnesota Zoo and those executing that responsibility are using some unique methods to do it.

"We're looking out for their behavioral health, as well as their physical health," said Enrichment Coordinator Christine McKnight.

To keep the animals at the Minnesota Zoo in tip top mental health, the staff uses what they call animal enrichment.

"Let's look at their natural history. Let's look at what these animals do in the wild and then let's plan things that we can do to their environments here in a zoo setting, changes that we can make on a daily basis that will give animals the opportunity to demonstrate some of those natural behaviors," she said.

The warty pigs naturally use their snouts to dig and root in mulch pits, but for fun they use those same skills to open presents.

Sea Otters, a fan favorite, have to problem solve to find and open shellfish inside ice cube snowflakes.

Those are just some of the examples of what they are doing at the Minnesota Zoo.

If you'd like to support enrichment activities for the residents of the Minnesota Zoo, you can purchase special zoo-approved toys and treats for them.

To find the Minnesota Zoo's wish list, go to


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