Mission Statement

Welcome to the Environmental Enrichment Scrapbook web site.

This site is a listing of techniques, toys, methods and ideas that have actually been used for environmental enrichment of captive non-domestic animals. It is intended to be accessed by zoo keepers, zoo volunteers, laboratory collection managers, and anyone else who might need this information. I encourage anyone with additional information or comments to contact me.

Why We Should Share This Information

When I try to improve the captive environment of a wild animal, I try to keep in mind that their environmental preferences can be very different from my own. If I research the literature on a species, I can (sometimes) find out quite a lot regarding their behavior as observed in the wild, which can give me something to start with regarding what enrichment they might respond to (e.g., olfactory stimulation, climbing opportunities).

However, what I really need is more specific; I need reports from people who have actually applied specific enrichment in their collections. In the past I have spoken and corresponded with keepers and curators to find out what might work in a given situation. I have also tried things on my own, some of which worked great, and some of which didn't . I also have felt hesitant to proceed with an idea because I was sure I would find out that someone else had already done this better or cheaper (and sometime s they had). There are some specialty newsletters devoted to enrichment (e.g., The Shape of Enrichment, Laboratory Primate Newsletter; see links and bibliography) but much potentially useful information never reaches anyone else.

I hope that this web site will allow more people and more organ izations access to environmental and behavioral enrichment information. By making it very easy to add or correct information in an informal setting, and having it be accessible at no charge (unlike newsletters), I invite everyone involved in enrichment to contribute and benefit. This site can and I hope will work in conjunction with any other sites hosting related topics.

If you have any response to what I've listed here, please contact me; I really want this to be a useful source and am very open to suggestions.

Ethics of Enrichment

As someone with a lifelong interest in wildlife and biodiversity, it has concerned me that it seems we must keep some wild animals captive in order to prevent the possible extinction of their species. Although we have these good reasons, since the animals we keep captive are not volunteers I feel it is only ethical to ensure they are treated respectfully and provided with what they require.

We make several assumptions when we consider what it means to provide captive animals with what they require: that animals will be happy and healthy in an environment similar to where they are found in the wild; that animals are healthier and better cared for when they are exhibiting the same types of and frequency of behaviors that they are observed doing in the wild, including producing healthy offspring; and of course, that what has been beneficial to one member of a species will help another.

A captive environment is usually designed primarily to ensure the animal does not escape and to facilitate ease of maintenance. There are general size and special requirements guidelines and regulations, but as our awareness of what animals require for healthy captivity has grown, so has our awareness that many of our enclosures are inadequate. Even though zoo keepers and other collection managers may be very motivated to provide everything that their animals require, their small staff is often overwhelmed by general husbandry requirements (cleaning and feeding) and limited in what they think they can achieve, either through lack of funds or lack of time. Since applying knowledge can be relatively inexpensive, I believe more effective use can be made of limited resources when the animals' caretakers are able to review what options and techniques have been successfully used before.

Return to the home page of the Environmental Enrichment Scrapbook.

Last update 29-Aug-1998 by DBS.