Enriching the Lives of Zoo Animals.
The American Association of Zoo Keepers, Inc. (AAZK) is an international, non-profit organization with local chapters throughout the world comprised of dedicated animal care professionals and related persons interested in promoting animal keeping and animal care as a profession.
AAZK serves as a focal point of current information and techniques available to the professional Zoo Keeper. The field keeper is the frontline individual responsible for the daily care and feeding of animals. The role AAZK plays in today's modern zoos and aquariums is educating the professional keeper and offering them a venue to exchange important information about their profession in the fields of animal husbandry, environmental enrichment, and reproductive success to name a few.Find us on Facebook
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Our local AAZK chapter at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo has many active members from various departments of the Zoo who are dedicated to improving the animals' quality of life.
Animal Enrichment—AAZK provides funds for animal enrichment, which is very important in the care of animals. It helps promote natural behaviors and a better quality of life for the animals by providing novelty, activity and interest in a variety of ways depending on the species. For example, AAZK helps provide paint for Lucky, our painting elephant. We also provide novelty foods to put into cannolis, a cardboard tube filled with treats. These are just a couple of examples of enrichment that AAZK provides for the animals.
Conservation—AAZK also plays a major role in conservation. The organization provides assistance to species survival in the wild. Our funds purchase acres of rainforest, set up sanctuaries and help provide funding for conservation efforts around the world.
AAZK is a national professional organization of zookeepers and other individuals interested in conservation, both locally and internationally. Each year, local AAZK chapters participate in a fundraising event called Bowling for Rhinos (BFR). Since it’s beginning in 1990, BFR has raised $3.5 million to protect the world’s remaining 25,000 rhinos. CMZ’s local BFR event to be scheduled for 2011. To learn more about BFR visit the upcoming events expandable of this web page, visit AAZK's Bowling for Rhinos Web site, or International Rhino Foundation's website.
To sign up for AAZK e-mail updates, send an e-mail message to firstname.lastname@example.org with "AAZK Updates" in the subject line.
Animal Enrichment at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo
by Dina Bredahl
Area Supervisor - Primate World, Monkey Pavilion & Conservation Barn
Enrichment of exotic animal species in zoos is important for several reasons. Ideally it exercises the mind and body of the animal. These animals have to work hard to survive in the wild. Many animals have to graze, browse, hunt or forage for food for many hours every day. This often involves being physically active and mentally challenged for a large portion of their waking hours. We try to simulate this in captivity as often as possible.
- If an animal is given a special feeder that requires tool use or manipulation in order to access the "treats," this is more challenging, time consuming and rewarding than simply putting the treat in a food bowl.
- If we freeze pineapples and cantaloupes for the bears, it keeps them busy as they gnaw and dig at them.
- All the primates like bobbing for apples or other fruits.
- Large rawhide bones keep the lions busy for long periods, while blood-sicles are fun for the tigers.
- The otters get fresh oysters or clams to spur on their feeding instincts.
- The coatimundis like to dig through a pile of mulch to find some hidden mealworms.
- Many animals will work for food-rewards by doing trained behaviors that can assist with veterinary procedures.
- Many animals, such as goats, apes, elephants, monkeys, giraffes, and bears, enjoy getting browse. Browse consists of tree branches cut from non-toxic trees. Most animals eat the leaves, and some even eat the bark as well.
- Paper mache piñatas are fun for the animals, whether or not "treats" are hidden inside.
- For tree-dwelling species, such as orangutans, an ice treat (which is frozen kool-aid with nuts, fruit and berries inside) on top of their enclosure or skylight keeps them active and arboreal for hours.
There are other ways to provide enrichment that do not involve food. An overfed animal is not a healthy animal!
- Scent enrichment is a great way to temporarily change an animal's environment... the better the animal's sense of smell, the more effective this is. Lemurs do a lot of scent marking in the wild, so they react to perfume sprayed on their trees. The wolves show a lot of interest in buck urine. The komodo dragon gets very active when vanilla extract is sprayed in her exhibit. When the lions receive a big pile of elephant feces in their enclosure, they will actually roll in it. In the wild they do this to mask their own scent, so prey species don't smell a lion approaching (they smell an elephant!).
- We "recycle" a lot of animal materials. The primates enjoy playing with colorful bird feathers and the feline species will hunt down patches of goat hair or snake sheds hidden in their exhibit. By changing an animal's environment, they are stimulated to explore and use their senses. Simply turning on a sprinkler or playing tropical bird calls can be very enriching.
- Another non-food type of enrichment is "toys". This can vary widely; boomer balls and other sturdy plastic products come in all shapes and sizes. A new log can be loads of fun for the mangabeys or bears to debark and find insects. A milk crate can keep the orangutans busy for hours.we have observed them using milk crates as stools and hats; they will stuff their entire bodies in crates; and they have even hauled large quantities of mulch from outdoors to indoors using a milk crate. Grain bags are fun to rip up or use as an umbrella.
- Finally, it is very enriching to change an animal's perch, trees, or rope. The apes use their firehose hammocks and hanging barrels all the time, and many animals enjoy sunning or climbing on a hanging platform.
Every enrichment idea is first submitted as a written proposal, which is submitted for the approval of the animal management and veterinary staff to make sure that the item or idea is safe for the animals.
Aside from safety factors, animal enrichment ideas are only limited by a lack of imagination!
- The American Zoo and Aquarium Association - www.aza.org
- The American Association of Zoo Keepers - www.aazk.org
- Pikes Peak Community College Zookeeping Program - http://www.ppcc.edu/programs/career/zoo-keeping-technology/
American Association of Zoo Keepers, Inc.
4250 Cheyenne Mountain Zoo Road
Colorado Springs, Colorado, 80906 USA
Phone: 719.633.9925, ext. 133