Written by By Saadia Muzaffar, CNN
Staring daggers at each other for your daily cuddle or playing tag with a feisty orangutan or reindeer in the zoo’s Santa’s workshop aren’t exactly your average holiday decorations.
But for the Toronto Zoo’s approximately 2.7 million annual visitors, these and more tantalizing options (including their new eating space or camel dunk tank) are part of the winter fun.
And now, if the zoo’s employees have their way, visitors will soon be sipping on the health benefits of some of the exotic animals.
“Lions are loud and angry and play hard, but according to us, they’re really a really sweet animal. So when we think about keeping animals, we always try to incorporate them into the community to teach them our inner values,” Gail Kelly, the zoo’s superintendent of zoological services, said in a media release
Axe the Lion has been approved by a Toronto Zoo trainer.
For the zoo’s new “positive animal ambassador” Axe the Lion — a 10-year-old male lion, who is house trained — an exhibit of fruits, veggies and other natural tastes and smells is being setup to allow him to familiarize himself with people.
Axe was not only born at the zoo but, according to Kelly, was also named by a past owner as an “attachment” to humans
And while penguins in Chicago will be tasting stone crabs this year for their merry beginnings, and the zoo’s hippo Tish will sink her teeth into jelly donuts, Toronto Zoo officials believe Axe would most enjoy the unique tastes and scents of animals.
The zoo is offering (and raising) money to the Species Survival Plan . The program aims to promote the diversity of species and limits the number of individuals in captive populations. The plan currently protects species from extinction including tigers, elephants, and polar bears.
This year, the zoo is also debuting a “foodnology” exhibit, including some of their infamous “down time” restaurants.
“People love coming in and seeing a lion lick a bell — the bell that makes a sound after the monkey’s mouth meets it,” said Kelly.
Inside, food served by some of the zoo’s resident monkeys includes “therapeutic” sweet treats like fruit and veggies that tend to help ease stress among primates.
The Toronto Zoo plans to donate its proceeds from the food product sales — in addition to its other donations — to the zoo’s positive animal ambassador program.