Big cats get new playground at Noah's Ark near Nailsea

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By Carol_Deacon | Wednesday, January 16, 2013, 13:53

A North Somerset zoo has created mini forests of recycled Christmas trees for its pine-loving tigers and lions as an unusual winter scent enrichment exercise.

To provide extra stimulation and activity for its big cats Noah's Ark zoo farm at  Wraxall, near Nailsea, made use of specially donated Christmas tree to plant two mini forests, making a fun playground for tigers and lions.

The Christmas spruces were donated by Bristol-based Park Garden Centres who were keen to fine a green solution to recycling this year's leftover trees and thought the zoo's unusual enrichment exercise would be ideal.

Almondsbury Garden Centre donated more than 50 Christmas trees to Noah's Ark which were planted out in the fields overnight whilst the big cats watched excitedly from their indoor pens.

With both species of big cat known to have a liking for strong pine smells and anything new Keepers put in their enclosure for them to explore; a mini forest of six foot festive trees was dug in overnight on Monday.

On Tuesday the zookeepers, watched by Almondsbury Garden Centre marketing manager Richard Truscott and an assembled audience of press and photographers let the big cats out in the bright winter sun to explore the mini Christmas tree plantations.

First Khan, an eight-year-old male Bengal type tiger, and then the African lion brothers Zulu and Masai got their chance to sniff, claw and pounce on the mini forests of pine.

Mr Truscott said: "Finding innovative ways to recycle trees is important for us as a business to help the environment. 

"Providing Khan and brothers Zulu and Masai with new trees is a great way for us to do this. The pictures are evidence of the fun they had. 

"Providing Noah's Ark with these trees just shows there are many ways to recycle your tree without just throwing it away. All cats will be inquisitive if only as a scratching post or somewhere to brush their fur."

Noah's Ark big cat keeper Emma Godsell said: "Enrichment is particularly important for big cats in captivity to keep them stimulated – scent enrichment has worked well for our tigers and lions in the past and we wanted to try something on a larger scale this year."

"With the help of Park Garden Centres we made mini forests for our cats which they loved – Khan in particular spent much of the morning rolling and playing in the trees and exploring all the new smells in his territory which encourages him to use his natural instincts."

Almondsbury Garden Centre also donated small potted fir trees which were unsold at Christmas which Noah's Ark can now plant out in other animal enclosures to provide cover and assist landscaping designs.

Noah's Ark is currently closed for the winter, reopening Saturday, February 2.

The zoo is building a new 20 acre elephant habitat to be completed in this spring. 

Noah's Ark attracts more thanr 135,000 visitors each year and was started at Moat Farm back in 1999 by farmer and author Anthony Bush and his artist wife Christina.

Animals house at Noah's Ark  include lions, giraffe, zebras, rhinos, tigers, gibbons and camels.

As well as the longest hedge maze in the world, visitors can enjoy huge indoor and outdoor adventure playgrounds. 

For more information about the animals, 2013 entry prices and events at Noah's Ark click HERE.

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