Environmental Enrichment

Due to the high standards of welfare afforded to the animals in our care, they can have an abundance of time which the Animal Care Team come up with inventive ways of filling!

In captivity, food and water is supplied, territory is already delineated, social groupings are usually fairly stable and structured, there are no predators to avoid, and quite often mates are selected for them. With all the extra free time, the animals have a need for new and challenging activities. That is where the role of enrichment comes in.

There are many forms of enrichment but the overall aim of Colchester Zoo’s enrichment programme is to provide a mentally and physically enriching environment specific to each species in our care.

There are 5 main categories in which enrichment can be provided, and with knowledge and a little imagination there are thousands of ways in which our team improve the daily lives of the animals in their care.

Food based enrichment is the most widely used method of enrichment as all animals require food to survive and the animals are also more inclined to interact. The aim of food based enrichment is to prolong feeding times. The easiest way to do this is by dividing the animal’s daily diet into three or four separate feeds.

Food based enrichment can be as simple as leaving the fruit and vegetables whole and throwing them onto the roof so that the animals have to pull the food through the mesh. It can also be cut very small so that it can be scattered through the enclosure so that the animals have to forage through the substrate. Other methods include hiding food in boxes or paper sacks and hanging it from pulley systems and wires.
Sensory enrichment can encompass any of the five senses: sight, sound, touch, smell and taste. The most common form of sensory enrichment used is olfactory enrichment, which uses sense of smell. Items such as herbs and spices, perfume and deodorant, catnip for the cats or even toothpaste or mouthwash can be dotted around the exhibit. This type of enrichment will normally induce extra scent marking from the animal reaffirming territory boundaries.
Cognitive enrichment includes novel objects that occupy the animal’s time in a captive setting. The sort of objects that you may see used in this way include Boomer balls, Kong toys, tyres, cardboard tubes and fireman’s hoses.

Cognitive enrichment is used to provide and enhance an animal’s mental stimulation, by creating puzzle feeder training sessions where food is hidden in a number of ways and within a number of different objects, such as those mentioned above, to make the animal think about how to access food hidden inside.
Social enrichment involves housing animals of different species with others that they would naturally associate with or encounter in the wild. For example, this can be seen in the variety of species that share the Kingdom of the Wild paddock.

Social enrichment can also be seen alongside the flock of flamingos. Increased flock size gives flamingos confidence to breed, and due to this, a number of mirrors were constructed and put up around the lakeside/possible nesting areas. This had the positive effect of creating confidence within the birds to start mating behaviours.
The physical habitat of the animal plays an important role in its welfare, meeting their physical requirements and providing a positive environment for them to live.

A number of ways is to adapt and utilise the physical space for enrichment, including hiding food within the spaces in the enclosure, incorporating further enrichment objects to encourage natural behaviours, and developing and enhancing the space further to provide mental stimulation.

Amazon Enrichment Wish List

All purchased items from our Amazon Enrichment Wish List are delivered directly to Colchester Zoo and put to good use as exciting enrichment additions for a number of different species throughout the park!

If you would like more details on our list and how you can make a purchase please contact us directly by e-mail at admin@colchesterzoo.org with the subject, Amazon Wishlist.

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