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Wild About Enrichment

Enriching The Lives of our Animals

May 7, 2018

When you see the word, enrichment used in our articles or hear it mentioned in our educational talks, we are speaking of a very important part of responsible care for captive wildlife. Many of us can remember seeing animals in small roadside zoos pacing back and forth or crouched listlessly in a corner.  When an animal is not able to take part in natural behaviors as they would in the wild it becomes damaging to both their mental and physical health.

Here at TCWR, we use enrichment to increase natural behaviors in our animals in several ways. First, we make sure their habitats offer plenty of room for them to run and roll on real grass and plants, giving them access to sunshine, views of the surrounding Ozarks, and other animals.

Within their enclosures, we present them with new weekly enrichment items: New boomer ball toys, cardboard towers, discarded Christmas trees, bowling balls and pumpkins are all beloved favorites of the animals to act out their predatory instincts on. The presentation of new items and scents relieves boredom and improves their overall welfare.

Scents play another very important part in stimulating natural behavior: Big cats and other mammals have an organ (referred to as Jacobson’s Organ) in the roof of their mouth that helps them detect scent particles. When stimulated in big cats, it causes them to flare up their lips and stick out their tongue to expose the organ to recognize sexual maturity, a female in heat, or competitive animals in the area. Our spraying scents or scattering spices for them to rub in also stimulates this response and prompts them to investigate and explore their surroundings. We are now growing herbs and spices for enrichment use in our new greenhouse!  Next time you see one of our big cats making this “stinky face” you will know they are happily using their natural instincts!

Since most of the animals at TCWR would enjoy cooling off in ponds or rivers in the wild during warmer months, we provide summer pools for them to splash in. The benches we build for them provide shade to nap in and serve as a substitute for the natural rock formations they would climb and sun themselves on in nature.

Without your help, it would be impossible to provide vital enrichment in the lives of these animals! Large predators are hard on benches and costly boomer balls; they must be replaced within months when they become unsafe. There are many more wonderful ideas for enrichment which can make the lives for these captive animals as rich and satisfying as those who run free:  Wouldn’t it be wonderful to give our big cats in-ground pools to mimic real ponds vs. the metal tubs we now have? Or grow our own fruit trees to make enrichment treats?  YOU can make a difference in their lives!  Will you help us help them?

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Blog Written By Stewardship Intern Sandra Ames

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