Novel foods, puzzle feeders, and social opportunities contribute to animal health
CINCINNATI, OH (May 14, 2020) – The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, closed since March 16, continues to prioritize quality care for its 2,000 animal residents. Enrichment, which is anything added to the animals’ environments to stimulate senses or elicit natural behaviors, is an important part of their daily care.
“Enrichment is one of the most important things that we do for our animals,” said Cincinnati Zoo senior keeper Jenna Wingate. “We encourage physical activity and mental stimulation by introducing complex feeders or devices that they have to learn to manipulate, giving them novel food and sensory items, training, or even presenting something with an unusual scent. Fiona, for example, really likes the smell of coffee. We think that’s because some of the had coffee breath! Whatever the reason, the smell triggers a behavior and is an enriching experience for her.”
Offering favorite or novel foods for animals to eat on special occasions is a simple form of enrichment. Placing food out of sight or in hard-to-reach places encourages natural behaviors that some animals would use to hunt for prey. Seeing visitors is also a form of enrichment that the more social animals, including Fiona, love and miss!
Over the winter, the Zoo modified the Malayan tiger habitat to include elements that promote natural behaviors such as scratching, running, climbing, scent-marking, swimming and resting. The new features have enabled our animal care team to interact with the tigers in a wider variety of ways and make each day’s experience different. When visitors return, they will see and learn from more active tigers.
“We are taking great care of the animals and looking forward to welcoming visitors back to see them,” said Cincinnati Zoo director Thane Maynard. “Getting re-acclimated to a Zoo with people in it will be an enriching experience for the animals! It will be interesting to see how they respond to face coverings. That new sight will be something else for them to figure out, but they will get used to it as the rest of us have!”