Animal Wellbeing at the Heart of our Zoo Technicians’ Actions: 2022 Retrospective Overview of our Enrichments
A healthy mind in a healthy body is what we all strive for! In a zoo setting, we have the same aspirations for the animals placed in our care, and we spare no effort to provide an environment that is both rich and stimulating, in order to meet the needs of each species.
Enrichment activities include all initiatives taken by the care staff to stimulate our animals physically and/or mentally, to encourage species-specific behaviours (hunting, digging, climbing, foraging, etc.). They also offer animals options for how they’ll spend their day.
A good knowledge of each species is essential to be able to target the behaviours we wish to stimulate. A lot of creativity is also necessary, since, to be successful, enrichments mustn’t be part of the animal’s routine ... or they’ll no longer be as stimulating! Therefore, it’s important to offer animals many different, safe experiences.
There are several enrichment categories to work with, which you may have noticed during your last visit to the zoo:
By changing the environment, we create a whole new experience for our animals.
Adding branches, vines, posts, shelters, or by modifying the substratum, we offer them new opportunities to explore and navigate across their habitats in a completely different way.
In fact, in 2022, the mandrills’ habitat was given a complete overhaul!
Creating opportunities for animals to exercise their neurons is as important as giving them space to run, climb and jump. Biomedical training sessions and puzzle solving are some examples of how to exercise the brain.
Furthermore, biomedical training is used to carry out basic healthcare treatments with the animals’ cooperation, which is doubly beneficial!
In 2022, we attended Zwalani’s biomedical training with Suzanne, one of our animal care technicians.
Textures, odours and sounds also constitute an important part of our enrichment initiatives for our animals. In the wild, many species rely on their senses to find food, a mate, etc.
Sprinkling spices here and there, or scattering camel hair throughout the habitat, activates the animal’s instinct to search and explore the environment.
In the autumn of 2022, our snow leopards were given special turnips, spiked with bird feathers and sprinkled with spices... Mmm! Tasty!
By far, our most avid eaters’ favourite! However, if the reward is well worth the effort, the technicians make sure that our animals work a little to earn it!
This can require solving a simple puzzle, using a rudimentary tool to retrieve the food, or breaking a block of ice to reach the delicious piece of fish inside. In the wild, everything comes at a cost, so forcing them to put in some effort replicates what they would experience in a natural environment.
See how our tiger Jack puts his predatory skills to work for his tummy when he tries to collect the meatballs stuck to the moving target, with snow as a bonus!