OKC Zoo collaborates with WildThink, creator of the Animal Vending Machine, an interactive enrichment tool that encourages animals to problem-solve and be active.

The Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden recently introduced its great ape species, including Western lowland gorillas, chimpanzees and Sumatran orangutans, to a novel enrichment activity, the Animal Vending Machine. Collaborating with WildThink, the creator of the Animal Vending Machine, the OKC Zoo is excited to offer this inventive enrichment activity to these select species as part of the Zoo’s ongoing enrichment program.

The Animal Vending Machine is a specially created tool that is an automated search-and-find game for animals and designed to encourage problem-solving, foraging and other natural behaviors. OKC Zoo’s primate caretakers will offer this new enrichment periodically to the gorillas, chimpanzees and orangutans, giving them access to the Animal Vending Machine in their indoor habitats. Caretakers will hide tokens in the apes’ indoor habitats for them to find. The apes will then deposit the tokens into the vending machine for edible treats. As the animals become familiar with the process, caretakers will apply more creative ways to hide the tokens such as frozen in ice blocks or placed in puzzles and toys. By changing how tokens are hidden the animals become more active, exploring their habitat and solving problems similar to those they would encounter in the wild. Apes were chosen as the Zoo’s first species to interact with the Animal Vending Machine as most of them are already trained to “swap” items as part of their behavioral training. The specially designed animal-safe Vending Machine tokens are bright pink so Zoo guests may see them scattered throughout the animals’ habitat. Participation in this enrichment activity is the animals’ choice and the animals will receive all of their usual food even if they don’t choose to participate.

“We are excited to be continuously looking for ways to offer the most innovative and advanced care to our animals, said Kim Leser, OKC Zoo’s behavioral husbandry and welfare manager. “It is our hope that partnerships like these will ensure technology that has shown to enrich humans’ lives can be used in creative ways to continue the high standard of animal welfare we provide.”

OKC Zoo is home to 10 Western lowland gorillas, six chimpanzees and two Sumatran orangutans which guests can see at the Zoo’s great ape habitat. To learn more about the new Animal Vending Machine read the Zoo’s blog, Enriching the Lives of Animals One Token at a Time, written by Leser.

The Oklahoma City Zoo is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily with the last entry no later than 4 p.m. Connect to wildlife and tons of fun as you experience the all new BRICKLIVE Animal Paradise at the OKC Zoo. Sponsored by Devon, BRICKLIVE features 45+ life-sized animal statues made with almost two million toy bricks! BRICKLIVE Animal Paradise is open daily from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. now through October 30, 2022. Purchase advance tickets for general Zoo admission and BRICKLIVE at www.okczoo.org/tickets. Located at the crossroads of I-44 and I-35, the OKC Zoo is a proud member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the American Alliance of Museums, Oklahoma City’s Adventure District and an Adventure Road partner. Regular admission is $12 for adults and $9 for children ages 3-11 and seniors ages 65 and over. Children two and under are admitted free.

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