There are 5 main categories of enrichment:
Sensory involves things that require the animals to use their senses such as the use of scent in an exhibit or a scratching post for the animal to rub up on.
Environmental enrichment refers to various species specific needs of the animals within their environment such as wallows, burrows, nesting areas, climbing, and perching opportunities.
Forage/Feeding Strategy is probably the category that people most often associate with enrichment. It involves the animals hunting, rooting, browsing, foraging and digging for food.
Occupational enrichment refers to things like chewing, object manipulation, grooming, and task oriented devices. This is often paired with Forage/Feeding strategy.
Play is also a very important part of enrichment and something that wild animals will engage in regularly. This is achieved by providing various non-food related toys and opportunities for the animals to have fun within their exhibits.
How keepers carry out enrichment opportunities for animals:
We begin by looking at the natural history of the animal we are hoping to enrich. Our animal keeper staff assess some of the natural behaviours that they are trying to encourage and how they can safely go about doing executing it for the animal. Keepers evaluate what the goal behaviours are on a species-by-species basis and work with Veterinary and Curatorial staff to ensure safety before moving forward with any enrichment program. Once the enrichment is approved, it is incorporated into the daily routines of keeper staff so that animals are given choices and control within their environment at least once per day. For example, instead of offering food in a bowl/trough, keepers can put various food items throughout an exhibit or in an enrichment device that would allow the animal to search or “work” for their food in a similar manner that their wild counterparts would.
It is also important to note that enrichment does NOT always involve food. There are a number of other ways in which keepers can enrich the animals at the Zoo that does not include offering them food. A clear example of this is achieved by using various scents within an exhibit. By adding a unique scent to an animal’s exhibit, it allows them to explore the exhibit in it’s entirely and provides great exercise for them while they follow the scent trail.
Why we carry out enrichment for our animals:
It has a positive effect on our animals by allowing them to interact with one another in a very natural way. It also stimulates their minds and provides them with physical and mental exercise.
Animals that receive enrichment:
All animals at Toronto Zoo are offered enrichment. The level of enrichment and the number of times per day that it is offered is evaluated on a species by species basis and must also take into consideration the individual animals that it involves.
Where and when animals receive enrichment:
Our animals are offered enrichment on exhibit throughout the day at various times that fit within the keepers schedule and routines that keep in mind the natural rhythms of each individual species.