Sunday, May 27, 2012

Animal Enrichment at the Zoo

Animal Enrichment is one of the most important aspects of keeping animals healthy. We know what they need to eat, we can meet their medical needs and give them a place to live. To keep them physically fit is a job in itself but to keep them psycholgically fit is a whole differnt approach. Every animal is different and requires stimulation in various ways. Primates like to forage so something as simple as sprinking
sun flower seeds around their enclosure will work but not for long. Cooking rice with apples and raisins and putting inside small pouches can work, even something as simple as a pumkin for the larger species is good too. Size, ability, natural adaptations, mobility, etc. all come into play. Age can certainly be a major factor as an older animal will need to be stimulated in a different way than a younger one. It is important to know what you are doing enrichment for as each has a different effect such as olfactory (smell) can be a great enrichment if you are trying to stimulate mating and this has to be done at the right time and carefully as breeding takes place at different times in different animals. Yes, even music can be used to soothe the soul of an animal (it also helps to masks outside noises at night that might otherwise startle the animals). Today we did enrichment with our young female Siberian Tiger. Placing her food in various spots, some hidden and some not, some placed up high on her platform and others hidden among the grasses and the chance to sniff out her food and work for it. She truly enjoyed her time working for her food and at the same time we were able to stimulate her natural instincts and create positive reinforcement of her natural abilities. It is not just throw in the food and walk away, but how can we enrich her life by doing things differently. It must be a constant change as well as they soon tire of the same of thing so we are always looking for new and different ways to introduce food sources from the hiding game to the hanging them from a tree out in the open so they have to constantly forage and find their meal. A psycolligically fit animal is a healthy animal and we work hard to keep them as natural as possible in a captive environment.

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