Any modern zoo worth it’s salt does everything to provide an active enrichment program for their animals. Enrichment is the principal and activity to create positive interactive experiences that increase the animal’s wellbeing via sensory, feeding, manipulation, environmental, social, training or puzzles. Successful enrichment helps to curb stereotypy or repetitive behavior like pacing, rocking or bar chewing. Successful enrichment programs can greatly reduce or eliminate stereotypic behaviors.
At first glance, enclosures may look hard and bland. But as you take the time and scan the environment, all the subtle (and overt) activities flood to the surface. There isn’t just straw but there are strands of paper towels and recycled maps to sift through. Hanging ropes, balls, and rock outcroppings provide perches and swinging spots to annoy & poke your neighbor.
One of my favorite enrichment opportunities were the fire hose swings tied together with the locks. These nimble guys were going to find a way to crack these locks open. In fact, one of “Steve’s” stories was that in the orangutan enclosure several evenings there were holding pens kept having issues. In fact, a keeper was let go for negligent duty towards his wards. You see, cages and enclosures were being left open. Once the keeper was relieved of his duty, the issues persisted. The zoo finally set up camera’s to catch the culprit. A resourceful Orangutan successfully learned to pick his lock. Once “free”, he’d move on to the next enclosure to release the natives. Needless to say, the locking systems were changed and new enrichment programs were ramped up.