Enrichment

This week has seen an influx of summer camp kids across the safari. One day there were only a couple of educational tours and the next there were over a dozen! For us, the safari keepers, this means more enrichment is being put into each of the enclosures on a daily and weekly basis to ensure the animals are active when the children come to visit them.

Preparing enrichment takes a little more of our time at the safari but is a lot of fun to make. Enrichment can take almost any form, from honey spread over rocks to spices placed in burlap sacks to cardboard “deer” filled with meat, the possibilities are endless. Today one of our keepers was running a little behind and asked me to make some enrichment for our stripped hyena, Neua. This was an amazing opportunity to apply the knowledge I learned in Sarah Cunningham’s Enrichment and Exhibit Design class at Unity College last year. So I rolled up my metaphorical sleeves and got to work.

The first thing I did was go over my knowledge of hyenas related to enrichment:

  • They are scavenger animals
  • They eat pretty much anything
  • They have a strong sense of smell
  • They are curious
  • They are good problem solvers

Next I accessed my options for enrichment. Our closet of enrichment items had a number of spices, honey, peanut butter, burlap sacks, cardboard boxes, perfumes, and bamboo tubes. The refrigerator next to it had some frozen yogurt and meat popsicles. Time to let the creative juices flow and create something spectacular!

neua

In the end, the enrichment I came up with was to take a little bit of the frozen yogurt and add a dab of peanut butter and honey to it. This delectable little frozen treat was then placed inside a cardboard box which was then placed inside a burlap sack. Once this was done I filled the burlap sack with some alpaca fur, that I found buried in the closet, and lightly sprayed the box with some perfume to attract Neua’s attention. All in all I thought it was a pretty good piece of enrichment given what I had to work with. It would give Neua a small snack that would lower her body temperature in the intense heat and provided both cognitive and olfactory stimulation.

When I threw the sack into her enclosure ten minutes later she seemed to really enjoy it. Neua launched herself at the sack and began digging at the box, trying to get the enrichment out of the sack. I was able to stay and watch for ten minutes before being called away to the tiger enclosure, and she had just gotten the box out of the sack and was busy ripping it to shreds.

Until next time.

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