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Christmas tree in December, chew toy in January: Lincoln zoo tigers get new toys
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Christmas tree in December, chew toy in January: Lincoln zoo tigers get new toys

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Tiger enrichment

Axl, one of two Sumatran tigers at the Lincoln Children's Zoo, samples his recycles Christmas tree.

Two weeks ago, the 6-foot fir was someone’s Christmas tree, likely lit up, decked out and handled with care.

Thursday, it became the latest toy for one of Lincoln’s largest predators -- 230-pound Axl.

The Sumatran tiger sniffed, nuzzled and nudged the tree, searching for the Friskies cat food his keepers at the Lincoln Children’s Zoo had hidden beneath it. Nearby, 255-pound Kumar investigated his new tree toy, too.

Tiger enrichment

Kumar the Sumatran tiger investigates his recycled Christmas tree at the Lincoln Children's Zoo.

And in other areas of the zoo, Christmas trees had become late Christmas gifts for the river otters, bobcats, snow leopards and clouded leopard.

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“It’s just to diversify the enrichment, the activities that our professional staff do to change and make the environment and habitat different for the animals,” said John Chapo, the zoo’s president and CEO. “To stimulate them mentally and physically.”

The trees were a gift from Boy Scout Troop 8, which had collected them as part of its Scouting for Trees recycling program. Zoo staff made sure they were free of tinsel and paint before giving them to the animals.

Tiger enrichment

Axl keeps a close eye on passing foot traffic from his enclosure at the Lincoln Children's Zoo.

In the tiger enclosure, they joined a long list of cat toys and distractions that zookeepers have introduced and monitored. Old playground equipment -- sections of plastic slides and crawl tubes -- donated by Lincoln Parks and Recreation. A used fire hose from Lincoln Fire and Rescue. Camel fur, perfume and spices.

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All designed to keep the animals active and engaged, Chapo said.

“You don’t want couch tigers.”

50 years of the Lincoln Children's Zoo

Reach the writer at 402-473-7254 or psalter@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSPeterSalter

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