A lion cradling a pumpkin as if it were prey, while penguins eat fish through a hollowed out Halloween treat.
These are just some of the furry, feathered and slippery inhabitants of West Midland Safari Park who have been getting hands – and paws on – with some peculiar pumpkin enrichment.
As part of the attractions’s month-long Spooky Spectacular festival, more than 1,700 pumpkins were ordered to help theme the Park’s Discovery Trail, African Village and Adventure Theme Park.
Any extra pumpkins were donated to the wildlife team, who use them as part of the animals’ important enrichment programme – and they have proven very popular indeed.
Once a pumpkin has been hollowed out, it can be filled with an animal’s favourite food, whether it be fish for the penguins, insects for the meerkats, or meat for the lions.
And some of the animals were more keen about their new play things than others. Amber, the park’s youngest lioness, snatched the pumpkin up straight away and fiercely guarded it, however the penguins seemed more cautious of their new, bright orange visitor, with only one or two plucking up the courage to waddle warily over and grab a sprat, before turning swiftly on their feet and dashing into the safety of the penguin pool.
Meanwhile the mischievous meerkats loved their new toys.
Keeper Michelle Howes, said: “We regularly provide the animals with environmental enrichment and the meerkats really loved the pumpkins. Being naturally inquisitive little creatures, the pumpkins went down a treat, allowing them to exhibit natural behaviours of foraging, playing and burrowing. As pumpkins are a seasonal treat, they offered lots of new tastes and smells.
“We really enjoyed watching the meerkats explore their pumpkin tower, searching for the mealworms we had filled each pumpkin with. When they had finally found every last mealworm, we did not let the pumpkins go to waste — we recycled the left overs by giving them to the hippos later in the day.” Spooky Spectacular runs until October 31 with opening hours extended until 9pm on weekends, October half-term and Halloween.