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How Can We Engage Our Animals in the Zoo? II.

Behavioral enrichment for raccoon (Procyon lotor) (photo: Christian)As you can see in the first part of this article, you can engage your animals with simple things, reducing boredom. In this part I would like to show you some other ideas about how you can use the natural behaviour of some species to entertain both animals and visitors – and not least, yourself. Let’s enrich!

1. The tongue of giraffes (Giraffa camelopardalis) is approximately 45 cm (17,7 inch) long, which they use to reach the leaves of trees in the savanna. Their tongue is very agile because it needs to avoid the thorns of acacias. You can simply motivate your giraffes to use their tongues by giving them access to their favourite delicacy only through a little hole, as giraffes are enriched in Taronga Zoo, Sydney, Australia.

2. Captive predators can recognize their prey even if they have never encountered those previously. If you watch the next video, you can see the hunting instinct in this bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus). The eagle uses its legs and claws to grab the duck. Although it cannot taste the plastic prey, it still takes hold of it.

3. In many zoos, keepers almost always give food to penguins from hand to bill. This way they can be sure that every bird gets the required quantity of fish. But in Marwell Zoo, keepers use a special feeder: a plastic bottle from where a fish floats out occasionally. Hungry Humboldt-penguins (Spheniscus humboldti) need to move and swim back to the bottle regularly.

4. Tortoises are slow. Tortoises are calm. Tortoises are boring. Or not? In El Paso Zoo, Galapagos tortoises (Chelonoidis nigra) are entertained by keepers with hung up apples. It is a very simple solution, but tortoises spend a lot of time with this kind of enrichment.

5. Enrichment doesn’t always mean food. In Dudley Zoo, UK, the Carpathian lynx (Lynx lynx carpathicus) get a hung up broom head. It is an unfamiliar stimulus for them, so it maintains the interest of the lynx for a long time. They look as if they are playing with the broom head, but actually they show their natural hunting behaviour.

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