Santa Paws comes early for Christmas at the National Zoo and Aquarium

The National Zoo and Aquarium celebrated Christmas early this year with a special morning of surprises for the animals.

Christmas Day is the only day of the year the zoo is closed, so a part of the annual tradition involved celebrating Christmas on Thursday with themed items catering to each animal's favourite activity.

Zoo manager Jemma Walsh says it is not only the animal's favourite time of the year but also the keepers' as they all come together for festivities.

"We're keeping with tradition and like to celebrate Christmas a little early with the zoo," Ms Walsh said.

"Pretty much all of the animals in the zoo have received some form of a Christmas gift that best suits their needs. Whether that's in the form of boxes or stockings, or little frozen ice blocks or however that might be for the particular species.

"For the keepers as well it's always a really fun time and they have a lot of say, we've also got an awesome enrichment volunteer that helps us out in making the right presents for the animals.

"For example the meerkats got a cool cardboard tree whereas the cheetahs got some wrapped presents, the sun bears got some giant stockings which were pretty fun for them to rip apart in the morning."

Ms Walsh says this period for the tourists is also extremely special, with younger zoo visitors always excited by this time of year.

"We always make the joke that Santa Paws has come to town which explains why Santa comes a bit earlier for the animals because it's a different kind of Santa from the one everyone else gets," Ms Walsh said.

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"We love sharing that with our guests and they seem to love watching the animals get super excited about their presents as much as the keepers do.

"Particularly during this difficult period, I think our guests love seeing different animals that they can relate to, for example you've got the animals that don't like sharing their Christmas presents so much whereas others are a bit more giving so people can definitely relate."

As the National Zoo and Aquarium looks forward to the new year Ms Walsh hopes it will get better for everyone and that they can continue to enjoy the experiences the zoo brings for Canberrans.

"We're really grateful to be able to share everything with our guests, it makes us one big family which is really nice for the animals as well," she said.

This story Santa Paws comes early for Christmas first appeared on The Canberra Times.