A monkey’s holiday wish list: paper bags and cardboard boxes. And please throw inside some bananas, peanuts or sunflower seeds.
Fans of the Palm Beach Zoo obliged, at least 60 of them, donating goods this month needed for zookeepers to put together presents for a dozen species.
Capuchin and spider monkeys opened their simple gifts Sunday. So did panthers and black bears.
Color attracts capuchin monkeys. And when a new shade appears in their habitat, it catches their attention.
They also prefer being aloft versus afoot, so zookeeper Rachel Dobrilovic placed the bags — gold, white, red and green — between branches.
That meant one bag for each monkey. Two crested capuchins, dark brown fur obscuring their tiny faces, spotted two bags immediately, snapping them up and disappearing into the thicket.
On the other side of the island, spider monkeys, with their long thumbs and tails, tore through a red cardboard box that hid peanuts and other treats.
The gift-receiving, er, gift-ripping, is a good way for captive animals to exercise skills they’d use in the wild. “They tend to exercise their brains by looking for food, or trying not to become food,” zoo spokeswoman Aileen Van Pelt said.
Unlocking the mystery in a box or bag keeps the synapses firing. To that end, enrichment programs take place all year long, many similar to last weekend’s, just not dressed up in Christmas themes. Sometimes zookeepers stimulate animals with scents using spices and colognes.
Maya, a jaguar at the zoo, loves Calvin Klein Obsession, for example. “She goes crazy in her habitat,” Van Pelt said.
To keep things safe for the animals, zookeepers sealed the packages with mashed bananas instead of tape. They also decorated surfaces with non-toxic paint.
Away from the zoo’s monkey wing, American black bears snoozed after their festivities. In addition to gifts, they got Christmas trees decorated with apple slices, yellow bell peppers and honey-filled paper cups.
Lewis slumped his 375 pounds over part of one fallen pine tree. His 425-pound-brother, Clark, slept nearby.
The zoo keeps a link to its Amazon wish list on its website year-round. For the holidays, it asked patrons to contribute items they probably had at home: stuffed animals, bath towels, cardboard boxes, brown paper bags, spices and perfumes.
Anyone who made a donation for the event got a discount on admission Saturday and Sunday.