why it's important
Animal enrichment within a zoo is a way for keepers to encourage and stimulate natural behaviors in our animals through sight, smell, taste, touch, and interaction. In a zoo setting, it is as important to provide mentally and physically-enriching activities for the animals as it is to provide nutritious, well-balanced diets.
Without sensory stimulation and engaging activities, captive animals may become “bored” and “tired” of their surroundings, and may develop negative behaviors. Enrichment can help reduce those possibilities by changing their environment, encouraging the animals’ natural behaviors, and providing different experiences for their senses.
Most enrichment materials that the zoo uses are everyday items that can be recycled and reused for our animals. Items such as clothes, bed sheets, stuffed animals, newspapers, and magazines are some of the many items that the zoo receives from our volunteers and the community. These donations support enrichment and better the lives of our animals.
Some examples of how simple items are used for enrichment:
- Perfume and spices are distributed in an animal’s enclosure to provide both
olfactory and taste stimulation.
- Paper mache’ items are made and filled with treats to be hidden throughout an enclosure to encourage foraging, hunting and investigation.
- Blankets and sheets can be hung, knotted or shredded to create different environmental stimulation for our animals so that they can use it as bedding, something to swing on or something we can hide food in for them to discover.