What is environment enrichment and why is it important?
Animals that are kept in captivity tend to develop stereotype behaviour, if they get bored of their small and often monotous enviroment. They start to move their head back and forward or walk in the same circle all the time, to keep themselves busy. To prevent that from happening, they need physical and mental challenges. That is, what enrichment should do.
We also wanted to do enrichment for the animals here in Paradero Wildlife Sanctuary. We started by researching the animals natural behaviour, as if they would live in the wilderness. For example, that the White Face monkeys would use their fingers and sometimes tools from nature to get to their food. With the limited ressources we had here and a lot of imagination, we created many toys and puzzle feeders for different species. We had a lot of fun creating and watching the animals using it. The animals challenged us to improve the things, for example making some of the toys unbreakable. They use some of the enrichment items not in the way, that was instead of forseen, but came up with different solutions. We learned a lot and it was actually an enrichment for us as well to work on that. Hopefully future vounteers continue this work.
1. Honey pipe
The Kinkajous have a very long tongue. In nature they use it to get nectar out of flowers. That´s why we hung a cardboard role (the inside of a toiletpaper role) in their cage. Once a week we put honey in the role. The Kinkajous had to use their tongues to lick the honey out of the roles. They really loved it. Every time we repeated this, the Kinkajous were very exited and almost could not wait until the honey was in the role. Sometimes they tried to get the honey out of the honey bottle before we could put it in the roles and they were very clever about it. It took only a few seconds until Neela (the female) found out how to open the bottle with her teeth and realized that she had to tip the bottle to get the honey out of it.
2. Bamboo pipe
The monkeys should use their fingers more often. Therefore we created a bamboo pipe with closed ends and a little hole at one end, pointing towards the ground. We hung it so that it could swing freely in the cage. This way, it would be more difficult for the monkeys to reach it. Twice a week we filled it up with monkey pellets. The challenge for the monkeys was to get the pellets out of the bamboo pipe.
We really enjoyed watching how the monkeys were searching for a solution to get the pellets out. Mavi (one of the howler babies) climbed up the pipe and shook it until some of the pellets fell to the ground. Catherine (another howler baby) just waited for the pellets to fall down.
The White Faces bit through the string, so that the pipe fell to the ground. Then they rolled it on the ground until the pellets fell out. To make it more difficult for them, we fixed the bamboo pipe with a piece of wire the next day. But the White Faces jumped on the pipe again until it fell to the ground. Now we use a strong rope, so they can´t destroy it.
3. Fruits in a bottle
With an old plastic bottle we created a new toy for the White Faces. We cut two holes in the bottom side of the bottle and melted the edges with a lighter to make them softer. We filled the bottles up with fruit strips and hung them in the cage.
Wim (the male) immediatly tried to get the fruit strips out of the bottle. It took him only a few minutes to figure it out. When he got his third piece of fruit, Simona (the female) became interested and tried it too. First she used her teeth. Then she realized that she had to use her fingers.
We observed how active the Spider Monkeys are and wanted to give them something to play with. That´s why we gave them a ball. First the Spider Monkeys were very reserved. Suddenly there was something new in their cage. A bit insecure and careful, one of them started to touch the ball. After touching it, the monkey jumped back to see what had happend. The others just watched her. The Spider Monkeys didn´t play with the ball as we had expected them to, but this is okay. Even if the animals ignore the enrichment item, it is still effective. The animals are surely aware of its presence.
After a few days we had to remove the ball from the cage because the monkeys started to destroy it. A sign for us that they were finally using it. Now we want to buy a harder ball, maybe a leather ball, for them to play with.
5. Climbing structure
We built a new, hanging climbing structure for the Spider Monkeys, made of leftovers from old beds, like a ladder for example. Besides being a new toy, it was also a new material for them (metal). Their first reaction was very similar to the reaction they had to the ball. But after a while they really enjoyed climbing, jumping an swinging on the new climbing structure.
6. Boiled eggs
Unusual food also belongs to the enrichment. That´s why we gave the White Faces boiled eggs, which they had too peel themselves. Simona needed some help with peeling the egg and after it was peeled she prefered to throw it into the hoods of our jackets to eat it. Wim, who was more sceptical at first, peeled the egg in a few seconds. He rolled the egg against the wood in his cage in order to break the skin of the egg. Then he threw the skin and the egg white away and was only interested in the yolk. He proudly sat in a corner of his cage and ate it.
7. Piece of wood with honey
We wanted to train the White Faces to combine various tools or steps in order to achieve something. Therefore we made little holes in a piece of wood and put honey in it. The idea was to show the monkeys that they had to use a little stick, rather than their fingers, to get the honey out of the hole. But the holes we made were too big so the monkeys used their tongue and fingers to get the honey. Now we know the holes should be smaller.
- A Mirror for the Olingo and Green Parrots
- Eggs for the Tucans
- Scents for the Kinkajous
- A Fruitbottle for the Tucans
- Swings for the birds