Animal Enrichment


Enrichment

Artemis the cougar enjoys a frozen treat, while her sister checks out the enrichment items in the back.

Artemis, the cougar, enjoys a frozen treat, while her sister, Fawn, checks out the other enrichment items.

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 is any item or activity that provides challenge or stimulation of the senses that allows animals to demonstrate their natural behaviors, gives them choice over their environment, and enhances their well-being. This type of activity is just as important as nutrition and veterinary medicine, and is an integral part of daily life for all our creatures at the Jackson Zoo, from the little Madagascar hissing cockroaches to the Southern White rhinos.

HELP Support the Jackson Zoo Animal Enrichment Program

  1. Donate through the Zoo’s  Enrichment Wish List. Once you purchase an item, it will be sent directly to the Animal Care Staff at the Zoo. (Hold on to those receipts, a portion of your donation is tax deductible!)
  2. Spring Clean and Give. There are many gently used items at your home that could be extremely useful for our Zookeepers as 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

Ongoing studies with other accredited institutions and our own daily routines help zookeepers determine the most beneficial enrichment protocol, used to enhance an animal’s behavioral, physical, social, cognitive, and psychological well-being. 

Environmental 

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 

Habitat design is a very important consideration for providing stimulating environments. Enclosures provide a variety of substrates, levels, platforms, ropes, nesting/denning areas, and places for hiding other enrichment.

 Sensory 

Every species has specialized sensory adaptations that play a crucial role in their survival in their natural environment, all of which need to be used here at the park. This 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.

 

 Food Enrichment

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.

 Social Grouping

Species are grouped here at the zoo in ways that resemble grouping in the wild, as well as Mississippi terrain allows. 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. This long, open air exhibit is home to the sable antelopes, ostriches, spur-winged geese, klipspringers, and a marabou stork.

 Behavioral Conditioning

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, plus it’s very handy for daily husbandry (like animals shifting from indoor to outdoor exhibits) or veterinary care (an animal voluntarily takes their yearly vaccine).  

 



Zoo Wish List

zoo wish list enrichment gibbonThinking about Spring cleaning? While you clean, remember there are may be things that you no longer need that the animals at the Jackson Zoo would love! 

Just bring during regular business hours (or make an appointment if other than 9 am to 4 pm). Tell admissions staff that you are making an enrichment donation.

 

Before purchasing/donating items, please check these great safety tips. Many animals like to explore their new enrichment items with their mouths or as with birds, will chew everything. We want to make sure that everything we give the animals is safe. If you are unsure, please email us at keepers@jacksonzoo.org with details and we can let you know.

Also see our Amazon Wish Lists online: