WHAT IS ENRICHMENT?
Have you ever seen a tiger playing with a large rubber ball? Or one of the spider monkeys foraging for food through straw scattered around their enclosure? Or the rhino flinging a painted box about his pasture with his horn? These are all examples of enrichment that can be given to the animals at the zoo.
Enrichment provides stimulating and challenging environments, objects, and activities for all of the animals under our care. Enrichment offers avenues for the animals to demonstrate their natural behaviors, gives them choice over their environment, and enhances their well-being. Enrichment is a critical part of zoo animal welfare, as important as nutrition and veterinary medicine. At the Jackson Zoo, enrichment is an integral part of the daily husbandry of all the species in our care, from the little Madagascar hissing cockroaches, fish, and lizards to our giraffes, tigers, and chimpanzees.
Support the Jackson Zoo Animal Enrichment Program
There are many ways for visitors to support the enrichment program for the zoo’s approximate 200 animals.
- Donate through the Zoo’s Amazon Enrichment Wish List. If you want to know exactly what you’re giving to the animals, you can purchase directly from our Enrichment Wish List. Once you purchase an item, it will be sent directly to the Animal Care Staff at the Zoo.
- Spring Clean and Give. There are many gently used items that you may have at home that could find a second home at the Jackson Zoo and be used for animal enrichment. Check out our Enrichment Donation List and if you have an item or two (or more!), simply bring it to the Jackson Zoo on your next visit.
TYPES OF ENRICHMENT
It is important to know about a species’ natural behaviors when we develop an enrichment program. There are many categories of enrichment that are used to enhance an animal’s behavioral, physical, social, cognitive, and psychological well-being. Some enrichment items may fit into multiple types.
Environmental Enrichment Devices (EEDs) are any object that animal can manipulate. They can be natural (browse, branches, hay, flowers) or man-made (car wash roller, boomer balls, tires, puzzle boxes, cardboard boxes).
Habitat design is an important consideration for providing stimulating environments. Enclosures provide a variety of substrates, levels, platforms, ropes, nesting/denning areas, and places for hiding other enrichment.
Every species has specialized sensory adaptations, and these play a crucial role in their survival in the wild. Sensory enrichment is designed to address an animal’s sense of smell, touch, hearing, vision, and taste. Animal care staff may add novel scents (spices, perfumes), pheromones, play sounds, give items of various textures, fabrics that blow in the wind, play videos, show animals mirrors. There are many types of sensory enrichment to choose from.
Rather than just giving an animal a bowl of food every day, animal car staff present food in a variety of ways that will elicit natural hunting or foraging behaviors. Food can be fresh, frozen, soft, hard, diced up or left whole and may be incorporated into puzzle boxes, hidden/scattered throughout the enclosure, or buried in substrate.
Species are grouped in ways that resemble grouping in the wild. Some animals are solitary (such as tigers and rhinos), while others may need multi-generational groupings. Some enclosures may also have multiple species living together, such as our African Savannah exhibit which houses, springbok, addra gazelle, sable antelope, ostriches, spur-winged geese, klipspringer, and marabou storks.
Many species of animals take part in positive reinforcement operant conditioning. These training sessions provide cognitive stimulation that increases the intellectual focus of an animal and is used for husbandry (ie animals shifting from indoor to outdoor exhibits) or veterinary care (ie an animal voluntarily takes their yearly vaccine). All animals voluntarily participate in these training session to maintain or learn behaviors.