Enrichment means providing a stimulating environment that offers physical and mental challenges for an animal. When elements of an animal’s zoo environment mimic the problem-solving opportunities they encounter in the wild, the animals exhibit natural behaviors. Enrichment can help zoo animals thrive socially, mentally, and physically. Want to help create enrichment items for zoo animals? Join us at an Animal Enrichment Workshop.
Enrichment happens every day at the zoo. Keepers work with the zoo veterinarian and animal curator to develop, test, and evaluate new enrichment ideas. Some of the best ideas are simple, inexpensive, and easy to incorporate into an animal’s daily routine. Here are some examples:
Finding food in the wild can be a complex activity for an animal. For instance, birds may fly to locate ripe fruit, use stones to crack hard shells, scratch the dirt for insects, or wade through water for fish. These activities provide exercise and require sharp senses! Zoo birds encounter food on branches, in water, or hidden among the vegetation.
Many animals have a well-developed sense of smell to find prey, locate water, and avoid predators. The zoo’s leopards, lions, and tigers love to sniff out spices scattered in their exhibits. After finding it, many enjoy rolling in it!
In a natural habitat, an animal will encounter new textures every day as it forages, hunts, and finds shelter. At the zoo, keepers hang large scrub brushes along the walls of the giraffe barn. The giraffe use these to scratch away any itches on their very long necks!
Zoo keepers encourage primates to use their natural intelligence by hiding food in “puzzle feeders.” The monkeys, apes, and lemurs use their problem-solving skills to reach tasty treats hidden in the feeders.
Zoo guests can watch the sea lions receive training enrichment every day at the 11 AM and 3 PM feeding shows. By requesting behaviors and rewarding the sea lions with fish, zoo keepers provide an intense and entertaining enrichment session. The sea lions get both physical and mental exercise, and the keepers develop a trusting relationship with the sea lions.
See enrichment in action!
Watch as Bill and Ina, our African lions, stalk, attack and eat their “zebra” prey.