Saturday, April 28, 2012

Natural Living Space = Enrichment?

I've had this photo for a couple weeks now, just wasn't sure in what way to post it.  I've been working on a post regarding the Zoo's "Enrichment" efforts, so I'm just going to post this as a stand alone post that will precede the other one.

I noticed this sign less than a week after Padang's passing.  This was the grotto/yard she lived in.  The Big Cats sometimes rotate yards for Enrichment.  It gives them a change of scenery and the enriching opportunity to smell the other Cats.  Padang was a part of this rotation, until it was necessary for her to live in a yard that was modified so she could no longer have access to the moat areas, for safety reasons in connection with aging.

The modification made was adding a fence that ran along the edge of the upper surface.  Aside from that all the yards have basically consisted of the same landscaping for almost twenty years, possibly longer.  There is also one other yard that has bamboo as part of the landscaping.  

These grottos prior to adding natural landscaping, mirrored how three of the Bear grottos still look today.  Point is, the landscaping was added to update concrete living spaces, to create  a more natural environment for the animals to live in.  

I have two things to say about this sign.

1. It appears that the Zoo now trying to say that an already established living space is now being "exhibited" as an Enrichment?   I've read alot about Enrichment and providing a captive animal with a natural living space is not Enrichment, its humane. 

I feel like they have done this to make the public think they are doing more Enrichment than they actually are. 

2.  In my crusade to get the Zoo to recognize that Andean Bear Wishbone needed grass (a natural surface to live on), I once wrote in a post that adding grass to his home would "enrich" his life.  So, even though I think touting this yard as Enrichment is malarky, going with the basic premise that YES a natural living space is enriching, why did the Zoo never add such "enrichment" to Wishbones's home?  Instead letting his bones pound to death literally on concrete?  Why has no one of authority ever green lit upgrading those Bear grottos in the past two decades?

UPDATE 4.29.12

So, the Zoo caught my tweet in regard to this post and tweeted back.

from @sfzoo:
@leo811 Regular rotation of exhibit space is "environmental enrichment"; one of the most powerful/natural forms. eg: Denver's Predator Ridge

I replied:
@sfzoo its not the rotation i refered to,its calling that particular yard "enrichment" after all these years as if something different now.

then they further offer:
@leo811 Not sure when the last time the Lions were in that yard, so very different for them, which then makes it different for the Tigers.

@leo811 Thus creating what is referred to as "environmental enrichment." Just one of many different enrichment strategies.

I replied:
@sfzoo You are missing my point, but it doesn't really matter. ... As well I understand what enrichment is, I research it constantly.

I can't bat the issue back and forth with people who don't get what I'm saying.  Regardless of whether they think my opinion is wrong, they just don't get the point of the post.  They can justify what they do, but I maintain the opinion I have in regard to this issue. They must have missed the part that I wrote "The Big Cats sometimes rotate yards for Enrichment." Obviously I know this. The Big Cats have been on yard rotation for years, that's why I noted it.  The point is, the yard is not new, so to "tout" is as such to make it seem this individual yard is an "Enrichment" yard, is worded as such for public perception. If anything, the sign notes bamboo "forest" and the forest is less than it was a few weeks ago when Padang was still living there. The only other change made is to the walk way, an area that allegedly was a problem area and how Padang injured herself prior to her passing.

I appreciate they had a response.  After all the things I've blogged about for over a year, this is the first time they've had anything to say.  Interesting that they choose to be defensive about this.  What about the kid that was laying across the barrier at the Anteater.  I tweeted them a photo about that but they had nothing to say about that or any of the other Security issues I've noted.  It appears something is a brew in the Enrichment "department."

@andiecattt added the comment:
@leo811 exactly right, nothing has changed. It's just a lazy way to not have to be creative and really come up with excitement for the cats

I replied:
@andiecattt the main issue is nothing has changed. rotation/not new - yard/not new. i think a couple keepers try to be creative.

additionally, Penguin Keeper Anthony Brown responded.  I am posting his posts as I not only like to keep the subject fully detailed, but I think what he says on Enrichment is informative to those who aren't familiar with it.  I was going to post a breif Enrichment guideline in the original post, but decided not to because educating about Enrichment really wasn't what the post was about, but, via the twitter exchange, its become that in part.

from @anthonybrown:
@leo811 @andiecattt What you're missing, is each day that the Lions enter an exhibit that smells fresh of Tiger, it's very new for them.

@leo811 @andiecattt Enrichment doesn't have to be "new" to us to be effective - it needs to be "new" to the animals.

@leo811 @andiecattt Studies have shown that animals will interact with objects they've encountered as much as "new" ones after only 2wks.

@leo811 @andiecattt So if an animal loves a boomer ball, reintroducing it every 2 weeks creates "something new" for them.

@leo811 @andiecattt With that said, some individuals love certain toys, and will engage with them everyday - ie: Gauhati and his ball/keg.

I replied:
@anthonybrown @andiecattt anthony, i know & understand all that you've said. I'll also note that i always appreciate your comments.

@anthonybrown @andiecattt my issue is that in this particular situation, it seems written for the sake of appearance, not education.


  1. I can hardly add to your comments except that you are right on the money. I have felt for the past year that someone in a higher capacity outside the zoo has questioned why enrichments stopped. Now, I feel that zoo is again just trying to cover their asses again. Everything they seem to do is a coverup. These animals are dependent on them and they do very minimum for their comfort. Thank you for bringing this to the forfront. Again, this is only my opinion from what I have seen over the years.

  2. @Lee- Thank you for you comment. It does seem ridiculous at this time to put something like that up. And YES over the past year plus, there has been less and less enrichment in the way of "items". I know there is different kinds of Enrichment and "items" (with food and/or scent) is just one of them. I also never see any of the animals with icee treats anymore. The Bears used to get them all the time. Wishy loved them and would work on one all day :) I'm sure the Chimps would love them. They probably would have loved them for the girls Birthday last week. I will say there are certain Keepers who I have seen try to be creative, but I don't see that widespread. AND certainly labeling an existing yard as Enrichment is not such. ... I do wonder if there isn't an outside agency that regulates required Enrichment?


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