We know that the animals under our care still feel the need to perform the jobs that all creatures have in order to be healthy and successful. At the Alaska Zoo we present the animals here with opportunities to utilize their natural instincts and behaviors when interacting with their environment.
These opportunities are called enrichment!
what is enrichment?
Life in a zoo can get repetitive as our staff provides all of the necessities to keep a physically healthy animal. However, in order to be truly healthy, we need to be mentally and emotionally healthy as well. Enrichment provides choices for the animals under our care which in turn aides in their mental and emotional well-being. With over 40 species we need to ask ourselves some questions to get more species-specific.
Where does an Arctic Fox live? How do flying squirrels establish their homes? What does a Dall’s sheep eat? How does a black bear find his food? What are the social behaviors of a harbor seal? How do musk ox raise their young?
Every animal is different and we utilize the answers to these questions in order to provide them the most species-appropriate environment by way of enrichment. Rather than presenting the animals’ diets on a silver platter (or bowl) every day we might hide the diets of foragers in paper tubes. Instead of just recycling a cardboard box we might wrap it around a tree to get shredded by a fiesty feline. While one might see a clump of camel hair as garbage, we might see it as perfect nesting material. As an alternative to scattering or hiding treats, we might use them as training rewards.
Types of enrichment
FOOD ENRICHMENT - Bringing home the bacon
COGNITIVE ENRICHMENT - Behaviors are the name, training is the game
PHYSICAL HABITAT - Feng shui is the way!
SOCIAL ENRICHMENT - Getting to know one another
SENSORY ENRICHMENT - Auditory, Tactile/touch, Olfactory/taste, Visual
**Photographs and video on the Animal Enrichment pages are mostly by the Animal Care Team unless otherwise noted.