Enrichment and Training Programs
One of most important parts of a holistic animal management plan is a thriving and effective enrichment program. Simply put, enrichment is something a caretaker can provide to an animal which provides mental and/or physical stimulation, and provides an opportunity to express natural behaviors like digging, climbing, social interaction, or the use of specific sensory pathways. Enrichment can be delivered in the form of novel items, such as new "furniture" or "toys", or novel experiences.
Think of how an animal uses its time in the wild - searching for and eating enough food, finding or building shelter, seeking potential mates, detecting and avoiding predators, grooming, maintaining a territory. There’s a lot to keep an animal busy! Now consider an animal that is in human care. If people provide it with all the food it needs, plenty of security, health care, and animal companionship, that leaves an animal with a large amount of extra time on its hands - what will it do with all that time?
Without adequate enrichment an animal in human care can become bored, and inactivity can lead to obesity and related health problems. Instinctual behaviors - take for example a tiger’s instinct to roam a large territory - without an appropriate outlet through which it can be expressed, can create chronic stress or may be channeled into undesirable behaviors. In some cases these undesirable behaviors can be psychologically or even physically damaging.
By prioritizing enrichment programs, zoos can put animal welfare at the forefront of their mission!
CPZ’s Enrichment Program
At CPZ, we take enrichment seriously - but it's a lot of fun too! On a daily basis our animal care staff combines their background knowledge of animal behavior, a healthy dose of creativity, and the relationship they’ve built with the animals in their care to deliver quality enrichment. Guided by the Enrichment Committee, our team of professional animal caretakers have developed an enrichment library, with customized considerations for each of the 80+ species in our care! Some of the categories of enrichment we use include:
- Sensory - novel sights, sounds, scents, tactile opportunities
- Foods/Feeding - novel (safe) foods, foraging opportunities, puzzle feeders which encourage an animal to use natural behaviors to access food
- Manipulatives - these are commonly thought of as toys, items an animal is encouraged to manipulate physically
- Environmental - can include changing the "furniture" in an animal’s habitat, viewpoints, substrates, etc
- Behavioral/Social - for animals that are naturally social this can include "play dates" with another animal or a human caretaker
Before the delivery of any enrichment, great care is taken to ensure that is safe for the animal. When done properly, enrichment is a thoughtful and goal-oriented process - what specific behavior are we trying to promote? Best practices includes careful observation of new enrichments, data collection, and analysis of their effectiveness. Enrichment is both a science and an art form!
How You Can Help
As you can imagine, it takes a lot of resources to enrich the lives of over 200 animals every day! Our zookeepers are always grateful for donations from the community. There are a few easy ways to get involved (see below!) such as donating gently used household items, purchasing items off of our Amazon Wish List, OR donating to our Zoo Toy Box (Animal Enrichment Fund), which can be found under the pink "Gifts for Zoo Lovers" tab on our online portal.
Animal Enrichment Wish List
- New dog toys (Kong toys, rope, tennis balls)
- Blankets/sheets/pillowcases (any size)*
- Clothing (shirts, pants, etc)*
- Towels (any size)*
- New bird toys
- Plastic mirrors (any size)
- Small, Rubbermaid containers with lids
- Animal scents (like a hunter would use)
- Perfume/body spray
- Mesh suet feeders
- Empty plastic cat litter containers
- Empty plastic drink containers (milk jugs, water, juice, or 2-liter bottles, etc)
- Burlap sacks
- Paperback books or phone books
- Paper egg cartons
- Paper grocery sacks or lunch sacks
- Large storage tubs (with or without lids)
- Kiddie pools
- Buckets (with or without lids)
- CDs or DVDs
- Large plastic food jars with lids (mayo, frosting, coffee, p. butter, etc)
- Zip ties
- Double ended clips
* These items are OK if gently used
Food (not expired or opened)
- Natural extracts (No imitations)
- Whole, fresh coconuts
- Shredded coconut
- Almonds, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts
- Unsalted peanuts in shell
- Sugar-free Jello (no red flavors)
- Sugar-free jelly/jam/preserves
- Sugar-free applesauce
- Baby food (fruit, vegetable or meat)
- Peanut butter
- Healthy cereals (ex: Cheerios)
- Dried fruits (raisins, dates, apricots, etc.)
To arrange drop-off of donation items, please contact the Zoo at 765-807-1540.