Enrichment at the Toronto Zoo aims to enhance our animals’ environments by providing them with opportunities that stimulate their natural behaviours. Giving animals opportunities to follow their natural instincts is as essential to their overall health and well-being as good nutrition and medical care.
Many different forms of environmental enrichment are used throughout the Zoo to encourage natural behaviours and provide choice in an animal’s daily routine. Some devices may encourage foraging behaviours while others are strictly for play. Eating or feeding behaviours are of particular importance at the Zoo, since finding food – whether through foraging or hunting – is a principal concern of all animals in the wild. A carnivore’s hunting and feeding behaviours may include smelling, licking, clawing, chewing and consumption of all edible parts, chewing on bones and tearing through skin. Therefore, at the Zoo, we offer our carnivores these large and complex food items to encourage them to perform a host of natural behaviours – and take significantly longer for them to consume. As well, carnivores that engage in social feeding gain an extra benefit from this type of enrichment experience.
The goal of any enrichment program is to mimic the natural environment as closely as possible. While our carnivores have been receiving this form of enrichment behind-the-scenes for a while, this summer we will be providing feedings on exhibit, which we hope will provide an educational and immersive experience for visitors.