Enrichment is a term used to describe various methods that our keepers utilize to encourage natural behaviors from the animals and provide them with the ability to choose how they spend their day. It also can create opportunities to learn social skills, enhance problem solving skills, encourage exploratory play, and many others. Examples of enrichment could include puzzle feeders to increase foraging, mirrors and scents to provide sensory stimulation, or objects like boxes or balls that could encourage many behaviors like clawing, grabbing, jumping or chasing.
The Naples Zoo strives to provide our animals with opportunities to affect consequences in their environment, more closely simulating their life in the wild. We believe in the philosophy that all animals should have choices during their day and within their lives. Those choices include how and when they fulfill their basic physiological needs, whether they participate in training sessions, how they interact with conspecifics and/or other species housed with them etc. When incorporated into daily husbandry routines, enrichment plays an important role in helping to add choice to an animal’s environment as well as provide outlets to exhibit natural behaviors. Through a variety of animal enrichment and training techniques, keepers can positively affect and improve the lives of all the animals in their care.
The Naples Zoo realizes that enrichment is beneficial to all species. The goal of the enrichment program is to provide, through a variety of enrichment items/options, the greatest animal welfare possible. Animals at the Naples Zoo are given a variety of enrichment options both on and off exhibit for the following purposes:
- To encourage natural behaviors
- To reduce potential sources of stress
- To reduce stereotypical behaviors
- To meet legal requirements
When setting goals for enrichment, an animal’s natural history and natural behaviors are the primary items taken into consideration. They help to guide the development and implementation of not only current enrichment practices but future items as well. Research enables a better understanding of the natural history of the animals in our care and aids in planning enrichment to eliciting these behaviors in the zoo setting. Each species in the zoo has a “Setting Goals” form that aids in selecting the goal behaviors that we aim to bring out in each individual animal.
Each of the animal care departments are to follow the schedule for giving out enrichment to their species. Each species has specific behavior goals and each day, the keeper should pick one of these behaviors that they would like to try to elicit through enrichment for each individual animal.
Animal Care staff are are encouraged to come up with new ways to bring out species-specific behaviors, adjust items for better success next time, stop the use of items that are not successful, and discuss with other staff members/supervisors the need for changing frequency/timing of enrichment. An Enrichment Meeting takes place once per month to help facilitate discussions of enrichment, development of new ideas and continuing to develop our enrichment program,
The Naples Zoo Enrichment Program is continuing to evolve and grow. Animal care staff are encouraged to continue to research the animals under their care and look for new techniques and ideas in the field of enrichment. They are also encouraged to reach out to other facilities, not only to help them gain ideas but to learn from other’s successes or failures. In addition, as the Zoo continues to expand and grow enrichment opportunities will be considered in any new habitat designs and expansion projects.