Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Roses a sweet treat for gorillas

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Communications


Roses may symbolize love and beauty to us, but to our gorillas, they symbolize snack time! Thanks to the organic methods our gardeners use in the Woodland Park Rose Garden, any trimmings of our blooms are perfectly edible and safe to eat for our gorillas.

Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

In the summer, as the more than 3,000 rose plants in the nearly 90-year-old Rose Garden bloom, the zoo’s gardeners deadhead the plants, which means they remove old, spent blooms to keep the overall plant blooming longer. That waste could be composted, but zookeepers love to get their hands on the blooms to use as enrichment with our plant-eaters, most especially the gorillas!

Photo by Kirsten Pisto/Woodland Park Zoo.

The petals make their way into the gorilla exhibit two or three times a week in the summer at various hours to keep it interesting and unexpected for the apes. This week, we visited the gorillas on a Monday morning and watched the blooms and petals rain down on the gorillas as keepers sprinkled the flowers into the exhibit from a rooftop perch.

Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

Our youngest gorilla, 5-year-old Uzumma, was the first to notice the keepers on the rooftop and she climbed high for a good look at what treat was to come. But it was Calaya, who remained on ground level, that got first dibs as the petals dropped down, spreading a feast all around her and the others.

Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

What a treat to see some of the gorillas pick up the blooms and actually stop to smell the roses (literally!) before taking a bite. 

Photo by Kirsten Pisto/Woodland Park Zoo.

The oldest of the gals in this group, Amanda, took two fistfuls of roses and headed away from the younger ones to snack in peace. Her snacking style seemed to lean toward stuffing her mouth with petal after petal after petal, while the others chomped on whole blooms all at once.

Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo

Roses stimulate many of the gorillas' senses, making it an ideal enrichment treat. The organic gardening practices really bring out the fragrance of the flowers, with no chemicals masking one of nature’s most perfect scents. The taste is sweet and irresistible to the gorillas. With their sharp, color vision, the gorillas find the flowers and petals floating down from above as visually arresting as we do. Branches come with thorns and all, but with their thick skin and expert plant picking skills, these apes have no problem dexterously handling the treat.

Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

When we took the flower show over to our oldest gorillas, Pete and Nina, both 45 years old, the reactions were a bit slower but still enthusiastic. 

Photo by Kirsten Pisto/Woodland Park Zoo.

Pete prefers bamboo, but he didn’t exactly say no to the roses, munching from a handful of blooms that looked all the more delicate in his massive hands.

Photo by Kirsten Pisto/Woodland Park Zoo.

Nina let the petals rain down on her as she sat in her classic, comfortable style: tongue out, holding a stick, taking in the sun. After a while, she gave the blooms a taste, eating them whole, one after the other.

Photo by Kirsten Pisto/Woodland Park Zoo.

Thanks to the organic, earth-friendly practices of our zoo gardeners, we’ll be able to keep these rose treats going for the gorillas through the end of bloom season. Look for this enrichment on your next summer visit—even if you don’t see it happen live, you might just spot a leftover petal or two in the exhibits and you’ll know where they came from!

Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

Then don’t miss out on your chance to see the Rose Garden in its blooming glory. It’s free to visit and located just outside the zoo’s South Entrance off N. 50th Street and Fremont Ave. N. 

5 comments:

  1. How wonderful! I didn't know gorillas were so passionate about roses.

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  2. Thank you for sharing this...have not been to the zoo in years but am thinking now is the time.

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  3. Seeing Amanda in one picture brought a rush of
    joy and sadness that brought tears to my eyes. It brought back memories of what she did for me.
    God bless her soul, and all the other animals.
    Seems like Woodland Park Zoo does good things
    for their animals...this makes me feel o.k.

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  4. I just wanted to make another statement, that is, I love
    the elderly gorilla fine ladies and the good care they
    are receiving at Woodland Park Zoo, this again brought
    tears of joy to me.


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  5. Cool post, thanks for sharing!

    ReplyDelete