Enrichment - Blank Park Zoo

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What is enrichment?

Have you ever watched an animal training demonstration or stopped and listened to a keeper chat?  Walked by an exhibit and wondered why there were kongs, boomer balls, ropes, ladders, or various toys hanging in the exhibit?  

The Association of Zoos & Aquariums Behavior Scientific Advisory Group (BAG) defined enrichment as a dynamic process for enhancing animal environments within the context of the animals’ behavioral biology and natural history. Environmental changes are made with the goal of increasing the animal’s behavioral choices and drawing out their species-appropriate behaviors, thus enhancing animal welfare.  http://www.aza.org/enrichment/

Wild animals spend their days hunting for food, shelter, a mate, and avoiding predators.  At the Blank Park Zoos, keepers try to recreate animal’s natural behaviors through behavioral enrichment.   

• Food:  This may include novel food items such as prickly pear fruit for tortoise, bones for the big cats, or squid for the seal and sea lions.  Food enrichment may be presented in unique ways to encourage the animals hunting instincts, by hiding food in cardboard boxes, or stimulate them mentally with puzzle feeders.




• Sensory:  Sensory enrichment encourages the animals to use their senses, such as sense of smell, touch, hearing, or sight.  Mud holes may not be interesting for you, but they make are great enrichment for the zoos tortoise and pigs, old donkey bedding may bring out a cats hunting instincts, and macaws use their beaks to shred paper.  Other animal’s senses may be stimulated with perfume, various spices, televisions, radios, sprinklers, or various substrates. 




• Manipulation:   This category includes objects an animal can shred like newspaper, cardboardboxes or phone books.  Objects like bird toys, kongs, or boomer balls for animals to chew on.  Browse is a natural enrichment item for giraffe, they use their long tongues to remove leaves and bark from the branches.




• Social Interaction:  While tigers and snow leopards tend to be solitary, Japanese Macaques live in troops, giraffe in herds, bats in colonies, other animals live together in symbiosis such as the clownfish and the anemone.  Zoos attempts to recreate how animals would live in the wild by pairing inter/intra-species together.




• Behavioral Conditioning:  In 2006 the zoo started a formalized training program for the zoos animals.  The training program originally started with the zoos pinnipeds and great cats, but over the past few years many species have been added to create a zoo wide training program.  Many of the animals are being trained to voluntarily participate in their own healthcare, in addition to providing mental stimulation and exercise.




Enrichment and your pet….
While you may not have realized it, you’ve probably enriched your pet just like keepers at the zoo.  Kong toys, frisbees, squeaky toys, plush beds for your dog, scratching posts, furry mice, or feathers for your kitty, hamster ball, wheels, and chew blocks for rodents, or bells, mirrors, or swings for birds, these are all enrichment for your pet!



How can you help?


Choose an item off wish list to send to the Zoo.  There’s a price range for everyone!


Check out our Amazon wish lists!

General Enrichment Items
Birds & Reptiles
Small Mammals
Large Mammals


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