- Associated Press - Friday, December 25, 2015

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - Even the animals shared in the holiday spirit at the Lincoln Children’s Zoo in Nebraska

On Thursday, keepers gave their animals treat-filled presents, continuing the zoo’s longtime tradition.

“The keepers have a great time with it, and it’s something fun,” zoo director John Chapo told the Lincoln Journal Star (https://bit.ly/1mitk3S ), adding that the treats also provide nutrients.

Zookeeper Meg Meyer’s first stop was the macaws, where Elliot and Sergeant Pepper ripped the red Christmas wrapping off their boxes and discovered nuts, graham crackers and ice cream cones. They cawed loudly from inside their heated room.

Carson and Tenzing, two of the zoo’s red pandas, found bamboo, bananas and apples in their present. Ranney, the snow leopard, savored meatballs. A naked mole-rat feasted on baby pears.

“It’s something different than what they eat every day, but it’s still nutritious for them,” said Ryan Gross, the zoo’s director of strategic communications. “Just like we get special food around the holidays, so do they.”

And Ranney received an extra gift: a Christmas Eve snowstorm.

“I don’t think she’s had snow since she got here,” Gross said. “She’s very happy right now.”

The eight full-time zookeepers work 365 days a year, Chapo said, including in bad weather and on holidays.

“They still come in and take care of our animals on Christmas,” he said. “They have Christmas spirit, and they want to share toys with the animals - (the toys) are tasty tidbits.”

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Information from: Lincoln Journal Star, https://www.journalstar.com

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