IMMS program helps public connect with animals

IMMS program helps public connect with animals

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - During the holidays, many people try to help where they can. For some, that means helping those who can't speak for themselves.

Enter the SEASon of Giving Tree at the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies.

"They are very inquisitive animals, they love these new things. It challenges them. And since they can't tell us, we try to get the public to help them get what they need," said IMMS Director Dr. Moby Solangi.

Marine Mammal Trainer Hannah Bahe started the program with a link on the IMMS website at the end of November. Since then, they have added the tree in the gift shop, so visitors can see what they can do to help the animals.

"It has different ornaments, and on each ornament is an item for our animals. Something for them to interact with, to enrich their lives so that they have something to do when they're not having training sessions," Bahe said, "I think it's a really great way to have our guests interact with us, with us as a company, and be able to participate in the care of our animals by donating those items to us so they can feel a little bit more attached as well."?

Solangi thinks the response has been tremendous.

"The public has been great. Within a few hours of what we put up on our website and Facebook, we have a link to amazon for the presents that people can give, and it's been outstanding," he said.

Some of the new toys have already been given to the animals who seem to enjoy their gifts.

"Balls and things for them to play with, puzzle feeders, things that we can hide fish in so they're foraging for their food or even for our birds, hiding their food so they have to forage just like they would in their natural environment," said Bahe.

IMMS officials hope to continue the SEASon of Giving Tree program through January.

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