Greetings, it’s Zena, and I’m back to talk to you about animal enrichment – that’s how we at Oakland Zoo help our Zoo chimpanzees live in captivity that is as close as possible to how they live in the wild. We use enrichments to keep our chimps physically fit, to provide mental exercise and give them interesting problems to solve, to encourage behaviors they use in the wild, and to improve their overall well-being.
We actually give enrichments to all our animals, and there are 5 different enrichment types:
Physical Habitat – putting furniture (like hammocks, platforms, and climbing structures) and natural features from the wild (like rocks and trees and vines) in their enclosures.
Sensory – giving them experiences with interesting smells, textures, tastes, sights, and sounds.
Mental Stimulation – providing behavior training and “puzzle-feeders” where they have to figure out how to get food and other treats out of cardboard toys and structures.
Social – putting them in groups with animals like themselves as well as with other kinds of animals.
Food – making special food treats for them and giving them food like they eat in the wild.
For example, we have seven chimpanzees here at the zoo. When you visit, you’ll notice there are a lot of toys, stuffed animals, pillows, cardboard tubes and boxes, hammocks, and other items inside their enclosure. These are actually enrichment items, and the chimps just love coming into their habitat in the morning to discover new enrichments to explore and play with. Individual chimps even have favorite enrichments – like particular blankets and stuffed animals that they use to make up their beds when they sleep or just want to relax. Believe it or not, one of our female chimps even has a special love for toy snakes! Another loves to ride in big toy cars and trucks. Imagine that!
Take a look at these pictures and see how many different kinds of enrichment you can find and name.
So, next time you’re visiting, be sure to look at all the enrichments we have for our animals and see if you can figure out why we used them and how they are more than just loads of fun for our animal friends.
Zena the ZooKeeper