GUATEMALA CITY – When the doors of his habitat opened, Moa – a six-year-old chimpanzee – came out to see why so many people were there watching him and taking photos. Then he noticed the colorfully wrapped presents.
Max, the 18-year-old alpha male of the troop who heads the group of six chimps who were sent to Guatemala from Sweden, came next, scouting the situation and giving his OK to the rest of the group to come out and have a look at the packages.
The chimps – including Mijken (17), Madeleine (14), Maya (12) and Malte (6) – are housed at Guatemala City’s La Aurora Zoo, where they receive a balanced diet, and when they excitedly opened the presents they found that the boxes contained apples, bananas and assorted sweets made from corn, cookies, cereal and raisins.
Nearby, Trompita, a 56-year-old elephant, eyed the presents left for her in her habitat, and an excited murmur grew among the crowd when she appeared to smile and moved her tail and ears happily, manipulating the packages – prepared for her by her caregiver and “best friend” Romeo, known in the circus and zoo worlds as “Tarzan Lopez” – with her trunk and opening her mouth and eyes wider with emotion.
Trompita, a Maximus asiatica elephant, came to the zoo nine years ago, a few months before the facility’s aged pachyderm Mocosita died.
Also participating in this second annual Christmas gift surprise party were Romina, a Bengal tiger, and her three kittens, who received presents specially geared to their feline and carnivorous tastes: horses’ hooves.
The zoo estimated that some 4,000 people would come to the facility on Sunday especially to see the animals open their presents, although some 1.6 million people visit it each year.
The “Zoorpresa” – a combination of the words “zoo” and “sorpresa” (surprise) in Spanish – is part of the Environmental Enrichment project being undertaken at La Aurora for the past six years consisting of changing the animals’ habitats by adding scents, textures, foods and other things to create a positive atmosphere for the beasts, a move that has resulted in “fewer illnesses and (greater) relaxation for the animals,” the facility’s technical director, Kurt Duchez, told EFE.