Animal Enrichment


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 give the animals opportunities to utilize their natural instincts and behaviors while interacting with their environment.

These opportunities are called enrichment!

Wish List & Gift Certificates

Help us to keep the animals engaged! The animals can be rough on their toys so we need specially made items to facilitate long term use by a variety of species at the zoo. We have three online options for purchasing enrichment for the animals at the zoo:

  • Purchase a gift certificate from Wildlife Toy Box - your gift certificate will allow zoo staff to customize heavy duty toys we know our zoo animals will love!

  • Amazon Wish List - make a purchase for our zoo animals from items we have selected on our Amazon Wish List.

  • Boomer Ball Wish List - purchase a heavy duty Boomer Ball toy for our zoo animals from items we have selected on our wish list. Boomer Ball makes hard polyethylene toys and balls that are rated for zoo animal strength!

what is enrichment?

Flying Squirrels hanging out on branches

Flying Squirrels hanging out on branches

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 homes? What does a Dall’s sheep eat? How does a black bear find food? What are the social behaviors of a harbor seal? How do muskox raise 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 feisty 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.

Lyu checking out bubbles, sensory - visual

Lyu checking out bubbles, sensory - visual

Types of enrichment

FOOD ENRICHMENT: Bringing home the bacon

COGNITIVE ENRICHMENT: Behaviors and training

PHYSICAL HABITAT: Think Feng shui in zoo habitats!

SOCIAL ENRICHMENT: Getting to know one another

SENSORY ENRICHMENT: Auditory, tactile, olfactory/taste, visual

**Photographs and video on the Animal Enrichment pages are mostly by the Animal Care Team unless otherwise noted.