6 Calendar Strategies For Enrichment Variation

Animals have a natural need for novelty and variation. They have a certain behavioural need to explore their environment and the need for challenges in their lives. However, animals will habituate to novelty when there is no or little variation in it. Eventually, they know how it works, what there will come, and what to expect from the environment and routine. We often talked already about the need for variation in enrichment programs and the need for many different enrichment devices. But variety also needs to be created with the implementation. At home, with your own pet animal, you know exactly what you gave your animal on enrichment. But even then it can be wise to track your enrichment effort. However, when you care for animals in zoos or other facilities with multiple animals, mostly with more caretakers then only yourself, it is crucial to track the enrichment given to ensure a level of variation and record the progress of the enrichment program. So, let's have a dive into 6 calendar strategies to ensure enrichment variation. 

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Better Understanding Of Social Enrichment And Enriching Social Groups

It is best practice in zoos to keep animals in their natural social groups as far as possible. Social groups stimulate many important behaviours for good animal welfare. But it is not always possible to keep the complete natural social structure of groups of animals in captivity, due to lack of space or availability of animals. Social enrichment is an exciting way to stimulate these social behaviours, especially when social structures are not the same as their wild conspecifics. Social enrichment is often an underused category of the enrichment repertoire, as seen in the study of Hoy, Murray and Tribe, 2010. Nevertheless, it is valued as very important in the same survey. So let's have a closer look at social enrichment and enriching social groups of animals. 

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Can Environmental Enrichment Tackle Stereotypic Behaviour?

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?

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Why You Should Plan An Enrichment Build Day

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!

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