This year, it looks like we’ll be without a White Christmas at our South Carolina sanctuary again (big surprise). But our administrative assistant, Tina McCoy, wanted to present our gibbons with “faux snow balls” (really, ice balls) as enrichment during our current mild mid-winter stretch.

She got the idea online. She saw that you could fill balloons with colored water, freeze them, then peel away the rubber for a cool holiday decoration:



She thought it would be neat to make these balls for the gibbons, and that it would be something fun for her to do for a couple of hours with her youngest kids.



She tweaked the concept by using cranberry juice and different colors of Gatorade (green sour apple, purple grape, blue blueberry, and, well, orange orange). She and the kids also stuffed regular and cherry-flavored craisins as well as sliced dates into each balloon.

Eight-year-old Joey was given the job of filling the balloons with juice through a funnel, ten-year-old Paige was responsible for organizing the different colors, and Grandpa was going to help peel the rubber off the frozen spheres the next day.

Ahhh, there’s the concept… and then there’s the execution!

Tina learned:

  1. This project results in a very sticky kitchen (mashed dates, Gatorade fountains).
  2. Balloons don’t fill well just using a funnel and the force of gravity; extra pressure from the tap is needed to make them expand to a nice size (even if that dilutes the juice a bit).
  3. Gibbons do not always appreciate all your hard work.

Helen reaching   Helen looking 

Helen licking   Helen shaking 

Although many of the males were curious, most of the females (except for tough old Helen, above, who grabbed hers right away) kept their distance.

Maui and Speedy

Speedy (right) was reluctant to approach, even though Maui was clearly enjoying himself.

Even the more adventurous males would usually start by poking their globe cautiously with a finger (except Scrappy who, typically, sort of attacked his). But those who eventually overcame their suspicions, like Whoop-Whoop and Maui, really seemed to have fun, tossing and rolling and chasing the spheres around their enclosures!


Maui, as one of the more adventurous males, had a ball!

Talking over this experiment afterwards, Tina remembered that the first time our gibbons were offered hollow bamboo sections filled with dried fruit, many of them were reluctant to investigate, but now these simple puzzle feeders are a hit.

So we’ll plan on trying this again in the summer time and see if our gibbons will be a little more motivated to explore a frozen treat then. I’m guessing they’ll grow to love their flavored faux snow balls!