CPT has an annual Volunteer Appreciation Day in which volunteers and staff gather to celebrate and recognize the hard work of those involved with CPT. An informal event, awards and plaques were given out, among those the recognition of the volunteer with the most hours: the plaque had a watch on it with the words "Go Home." The Rookie of the Year went to the most involved new volunteer and the golden plaque had a baby bottle on it. The awards were funny, yet seriously reflect how important volunteers are to an organization like CPT. Volunteers really are the heart of any organization, and in the hearts of CPT volunteers and staff lies the insane desire to dress in sumo suits and fight. Yes, that is how we treat our volunteers, for whom we are so thankful. The above photo features an animal keeper and a volunteer preparing to engage in mortal combat. This was so much fun! I did not, however, take part in the wrestling, as I felt that doing so would be cruel... I was a sumo wrestler in my younger years and I didn't want to embarrass anyone. After a wonderful lunch and award ceremony, our group took turns climbing into these giant suits and duking it out. In addition, CPT's volunteers also put together a talent show and we watched baton twirling, listened to cat poetry, and heard one of our keepers play her accordion.
After the Volunteer Award luncheon, one of our volunteers brought out a giant flatscreen tv shipping box to use as enrichment for two of our tigers, Kaela and Rajah. The above photo shows these two investigating the box after we placed it into their enclosure. Of course, we shifted both cubs (as we call them, although these kids are over 300 lbs each. That's a big baby.) into another part of their enclosure so only the box, and not the human, would be annihilated. Not only did they have this fine box to play with, but it was completely drenched with clove oil. Now I don't know about you, but clove oil is the closest thing to heaven if you're a tiger (or if you like pumpkin pie, which I definitely do). I thought they were going to go insane!
These two sniffed and stepped around the box a few times before Rajah took one big paw to the box and flattened it on the ground. I thought they would be disappointed, being as they don't have thumbs and the basic understanding of dimensions, but not these two. Apparently Raj and Kaela have a mighty obsession with getting whatever toy or enrichment item they have in their enclosure into their pool. I'm not sure if they think they are raccoons and they must wash everything or if they are just crazy, but Raj chased Kaela off so he could undergo Operation Get Cardboard in Pool. Raj told that giant flat cardboard box who was boss as he danced around it and worked to lift it off the ground with his teeth. Dragging it towards the pool, Raj was unaware that Kaela was stalking him until she came flying out of nowhere and launched herself on him. It was that clove oil I tell you... does freaky things with their minds. Kaela ran off as Raj wigged out and chased her, but then Raj returned to his box. With a great applause from the humans, Rajah finally got his box onto the pool. However, the box fit over the pool like a lid rather than go into the pool:
So, Raj did what I would have done: jumped on top of the flattened box. Absolute success. The box was in the water, and the smell of clove oil filled the air. The above photo is of Raj dragging his box to the pool, though it's hard to tell I know. Once the box was in the pool, Operation Get Box Out of Pool began. Kaela was at this point tripping out on clove oil in another part of the enclosure, though she did come back and investigate during these events. Raj chased her off. Raj didn't factor into his master plan the decomposition of the cardboard in the water, and the box fell apart in his teeth each time he tried to retrieve it. It appeared that he did not like the taste. Frustrated, he jumped in and out of the pool multiple times, making a soggy cardboard soup seasoned with clove oil.
Once he gave up on the dead box, he tackled the leftovers that didn't make it into the pool, chewing and rubbing and moaning on his cardboard. The smell of clove oil was in the air as Kaela reappeared and the two dashed about in pursuit of absolutely nothing. The enrichment provided a good laugh to us all and obviously a much-needed high for the two tigers. Feeling playful, Rajah charged us mockingly as we were on our way out and seemed rather pleased with himself as I restarted my heart. I'd say it was a darn good day.