Behind the Scenes at the National Zoo’s Kitchen

The Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington, DC, is responsible for the health and happiness of more than 1,800 animals from all over the world. The nutritional requirements and the preferences of each species is studied and catered to. Some of those preferences may be surprising. Who knew that lions love pumpkin spice?   

“The lions take a long time rolling around in that scent and getting it all over themselves,” says Hilary Colton, animal keeper and vice chair of the National Zoo’s Enrichment and Training Committee.

Zoo staff scatter a range of spices, extracts, fur and other scents around the Zoo’s many animal habitats, encouraging animals to sniff and explore. Pumpkin spice is a favorite of the lions, sending them into a flurry of activity—rolling, rubbing and scent marking.

“The lions will scent mark the same way our cats do at home in that space,” says Colton. “We get a lot of behavior from using smell. We don’t have to use a lot because humans don’t have the entire spectrum of scent receptors that some of our animals do.”

The zoo also makes food into an adventure, enrichment, or learning experience for some animals, and that's on top of dealing with odd deliveries, like a truckload of crickets. Read how the National Zoo feeds its residents at Smithsonian Insider.  -via Metafilter

See a video of the zoo's scent-enrichment program for cats.

(Image credit: Flickr user Smithsonian's National Zoo)

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