“ a process for improving or enhancing animal environments and care within the context of their inhabitant’s behavioural biology and natural history ”
AZA Behavioral Advisory Group
What is enrichment?
There are a variety of different definitions for what 'enrichment' is in terms of animal husbandry, but the general idea is that it enhances both the physical and mental welfare of captive animals. It does this by providing stimuli which help to encourage natural behaviours, increase the time animals spend engaging with their environment and decrease the frequency and establishment of stereotypies. Whilst enrichment is not a substitute for poor enclosure design or diet, it is becoming more evident that enrichment should no longer be thought of as just 'extra', but should instead be viewed as a core part of modern animal husbandry practices.
Zoos and other facilities that are regulated by accrediting bodies have come a long way from the bland concrete menageries that previously housed wild animals, and the standards of animal management and welfare are of a much better quality. Well-researched nutritional diets and veterinary care help to keep animals in a good physical condition, however, even the most physically healthy individual may be compromised in terms of their mental welfare, and this is where having a well-structured enrichment programme can really help. There have been lots of studies into the impact of enrichment and it is clear that it has a positive impact on both mental and physical welfare.
Food-based enrichment is one of the most widely used forms of enrichment, and can be either incredibly simple or more complex. It may involve providing food in a way that encourages natural foraging or hunting behaviours and increases the time it takes for them to consume a meal (which reduces the time they spend without stimulation) or food may be presented within puzzle feeders, providing cognitive stimulation.
Swipe to view next slide >
For more information on enrichment for various species, click the links below.
Check out the gallery for our collection of enrichment images, or join us to view the members and video galleries.