What is Environmental Enrichment?
This is when we add items to an animal's environment in order to “enrich” their lives. The aim is to encourage natural behaviours, environmental interactions and behavioural diversity.
Why do we give enrichment?
We need to give animals the opportunity to express the natural behaviours that they are highly motivated to display. This is important for an animal's welfare as animals may become frustrated if they are unable to display these natural behaviours.
Some stories of our enrichment activities...
- Tigers are highly motivated to hunt but we cannot give them live prey to hunt in a zoo environment. However, a tiger's hunting behaviour is highly linked to their play behaviour as they play with items by stalking, pouncing, clawing and biting at them. So by providing our tigers with access to physical enrichment items that they can play with, the tiger's natural motivation to hunt is satisfied. We provide our tigers with a wide variety of physical enrichment items including Christmas trees, animal fleeces, cardboard boxes, paper sacks, hessian sacks, logs, rope balls, cardboard tubes, large fruit items, large bones and ice blocks which the tigers love to play with and destroy. We also feed our tigers in a variety of ways, including hiding the food around the enclosure (inside sacks / boxes or underneath straw / log piles) or hanging the food up for them to pull down, for extra stimulation. We use an enrichment rota to ensure that the tigers receive a variety of different enrichment items, designed to stimulate and satisfy different behavioural needs, every day.
- Tapirs are browsers in their natural habitat and will strip the bark and twigs from trees to eat as well as the leaves. Although tapirs can be fed a diet of hay and pellets to gain all the nutrients that they need in zoos this doesn't allow them to display their natural feeding behaviour of manipulating and stripping tree branches. So each day we cut browse from our plantations on site to feed to the tapirs so that they have the chance to feed in a more natural way.