Enrichment is any object given to an animal that encourages a species specific natural behavior. Enrichment includes the design of stimulating enclosures, the housing of appropriate social groups in zoos, and the introduction of objects, sounds, smells or other stimuli in the animal’s environment.
Environmental enrichment is just as critical to Zoo animal welfare as nutrition and veterinary medicine. At the Happy Hollow Zoo, enrichment is an integral part of the daily care of the species in our collection.
Enrichment is provided in a variety of ways, such as:
1. Exhibit design: provides a variety of substrates, levels, and complexities.
2. Training: training using operant conditioning techniques allows the keeper close, visual observations of that animal, and provides our animals with the opportunity to exercise their brains the same way they would in the wild.
3. Olfactory: a keeper can introduce natural predator or prey scents, in addition to novel smells or pheromone scents.
4. Auditory: taped sounds or vocalizations can simulate things that an animal may hear in the wild.
5. Food related: this is the most widely used form of enrichment. Keepers can present food in a variety of ways such as in a simple puzzle feeder, hidden throughout the enclosure, scattered about the enclosure, or buried in a substrate. To get the food, the animal must use natural foraging behaviors and/or mentally solve the puzzle.
6. Novel objects: various items placed in an animal’s enclosure allow the animal to mimic behaviors exhibited in the wild or could challenge them. These items could include burlap bags, sheets, boomer balls, chew toys, or a hammock.