Animal welfare is one of the most important factors and includes providing the animal with a retreat from the public.
Environmental enrichment plays an important role in animal welfare and may be a consideration when designing an enclosure.
For example, to include a number of items within the enclosure which can be easily rearranged will allow for changes to the environment to be made relatively easily, thus acting as a form of enrichment.
Keepers at Colchester Zoo also regularly provide enrichment for their animals. Enrichment can range from simple food-based enrichments, with food hidden in boxes or in undergrowth, to more complex designs, like puzzle feeders and meat attached to pulley systems. It is vital that captive animals are provided with enrichment in order to occupy their time and promote natural behaviours.
Different types of enrichment include food presentation, such as scatter feeding and hiding food as well as enrichment such as scent trails, furnishings moved from one enclosure to another and novel items, such as cardboard boxes and old clothes.
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Many visitors to Colchester Zoo will not be aware of some of the work that takes place behind the scenes. An intensive veterinary programme is in operation to monitor the health status of animals within the collection.
A vet from the International Zoo Vet Group visits regularly to conduct this work. This can range from minor work such as treating cuts, to major procedures such as elephant anaesthetic and dentistry.
Dedicated staff also coordinate animal enrichment and training programmes in order to improve the welfare of animals in our care.
Colchester Zoo's animal training coordinator works with animal species from all sections of the zoo. He uses a positive reinforcement method to train the animals, whereby the animal receives a reward for carrying out a particular behaviour requested.
Numerous animals have been trained at Colchester Zoo with positive effect, such as Rajang, the male orangutan, who was trained to accept an injection in preparation for his enclosure move, Dume the male mandrill who was trained to open his mouth for veterinary inspection and the young cheetahs, Toto, Sky and Cabinda, who were all crate trained in preparation for their moves to European Zoos.