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Miller Park Zoo sells Presents for Paws to fund animal enrichment items

Written by on December 6, 2023

Photo provided by the Miller Park Zoo

BLOOMINGTON, Ill. – The Miller Park Zoo is currently holding a fundraiser selling animal imprinted ornaments with all funds going towards the zoo. 

Presents for Paws is a fundraiser started two years ago as a way to raise money to purchase enrichment items for the animals in the zoo. Enrichment items are toys that encourage natural behavior. These items are typically expensive.

Miller Park Zoo Events/Volunteer Coordinator Silvia Schuh says some examples of enrichment items would be boomer balls for tigers or puzzles for the animals to find their food. Animals in captivity have a tendency to get bored and Miller Park Zoo tries to prevent that with enrichment items. These items help to keep them stimulated and healthy.

Schuh says, “Like us, we have to be able to balance work, life, entertainment and all the kinds of things that bring us joy. And it’s the same concept with them. It helps them to enrich their well-being and their lives here.”

The ornaments are made using a salt dough. Animal prints made from a plaster or rubber print are used like a stamp to press the animal prints into the dough. They are left to dry and then painted. Bows and ribbons are added to turn them into ornaments that can be hung on a tree. 

“It’s a long process really because it takes probably about seven volunteers to roll out the dough and press it and so forth. Then we have to wait about a week for the dough to dry and then we have another team of people come in and paint the ornaments,” Schuh says. 

The ornaments for purchase are displayed on a Christmas tree in the Miller Park Zoo gift shop. They are also available at the A B Hatchery and Garden Center in Bloomington. All ornaments are $5, except for tiger prints which are $10.