Environmental enrichment is a tool to promote more natural behaviour and stimulate physical and mental stimulation to an animal. In zoos, we try to provide the best environment and the best care possible: A well-designed enclosure that fulfils the needs of the animal. Animal training to reduce stress and frustration on daily husbandry activities or medical care. But also create a challenging environment to shape possibilities for an animal to perform its natural behaviours. We all know the old barren zoos of the past, where you saw a lonely carnivore in an understimulating environment continuously pacing. In the present day, this is seldomly seen anymore. But sometimes, abnormal behaviour develops, and in the worst-case scenario, an animal starts to show stereotypes. And what then? Can environmental enrichment play a role to tackle behavioural problems and reduce stereotypic behaviours?Read More...
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Enrichment is the ultimate tool to encourage natural behaviours in existing captive habitats. But enrichment is only effective when you have lots of it. With other words, enrichment is only useful when you create change and variety. So when you want to stimulate natural behavioural diversity, you need many enrichment items. And that is a challenge. At least I've seen the use of the same enrichment device almost every day, haven't you? Enrichment availability is a limiting factor in many zoos to create this change and variety. So when you want to make an extensive enrichment program, we need to build enrichment. A heck of a lot of enrichment! But there are ways you don't have to do that alone. There are ways to make it easier to build a huge amount of enrichment. And one awesome idea is to plan an enrichment build day at the zoo!Read More...
When developing an enrichment program, one of the hardest tasks is creating the amount and variety of enrichment devices. To improve the behavioural welfare of the animal, you need to create a particular choice, change and complexity. In my zoo experience, I see many people struggling to think of new enrichment ideas and create new enrichment items. I often get the question to help someone with new enrichment ideas. And sometimes it can be difficult, especially when there is access to limited resources. However, because enrichment is given for many captive animals for a long time, there are many enrichment ideas already out there. And besides, the field of environmental enrichment is studied a lot, so there are many papers about the effectiveness of different types of enrichment. You only have to find them. And it would help if you are (at least a bit) creative. In this blog, I will talk about how I get new enrichment ideas and fit them in the behavioural goals I try to accomplish.Read More...
Every wild animal has to make the optimal decision when foraging. The best foraging strategy is the balance between energy cost and energy gain within the limitations of the animal and the surrounding, or in other words, the decision that maximises the currency under the constraints of the environment. The decision on foraging strategy is critical for the survival of every animal because when eating provides energy for the animal, the energy cost for foraging must not exceed the energy consumed. These two has to be in balance. The optimal foraging theory model predicts how animals maximise their foraging efficiency and also give valuable insight into managing captive animals.Read More...
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