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The Milwaukee County Zoo’s
Enrichment Program

Jaguar, Pat
View enrichment photo gallery

What is Enrichment?

The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) defines animal enrichment as “a dynamic process for enhancing animal environments within the context of the animals’ behavioral biology and natural history. Environmental changes are made with the goal of increasing the animal’s behavioral choices and drawing out their species-appropriate behaviors, thus enhancing animal welfare.”

All AZA-accredited zoos are required to incorporate animal enrichment into the daily activity of its animals.The Milwaukee County Zoo (MCZ) takes its AZA accredidation and the welfare of its animals very seriously. We are committed to providing an Enrichment Program that addresses both the physical and psychological needs of each animal in our collection. Our program also aims to reduce stereotypical behaviors, improve success of captive breeding programs and provide an educational experience for Zoo visitors. We have an internal enrichment committee that works hard to ensure a successful program.

What Are the Different Types of Enrichment?

MCZ’s Enrichment Program is comprised of 5 different focus areas:

  • Environmental: This includes the enhancement of, or alteration to, an animal’s habitat with the goal of adding complexity to its environment. Examples of this might include novel substrates, swings, climbing structures or new exhibit propping.
  • Foods/Feeding: This includes extending feeding time, making feeding time challenging and promoting natural feeding strategies. Examples of this can include food in puzzle feeders, scattered food and hidden food.
  • Manipulative: This includes providing the animal with items that can be manipulated in some way using its hands, paws, head, feet, horns or mouth for investigation and exploratory play. Examples of this might include balls, boxes, barrels and other “toys.”
  • Sensory: This includes stimulating all of an animal’s senses (visual, smell,  hearing, taste and touch.) Examples of this might include bubbles, bells, spices, perfumes, audio recordings and scratching posts.
  • Social/Behavioral: This includes interaction in the form of training or structured play designed to build trust and rapport between keepers and animals. Social/behavioral enrichment also includes providing variations on the animals’ social strucutre based on natural history. Examples of this might include training/keeper interaction, decoys/piñatas or animal calls.

iPad Enrichment

The Milwaukee County Zoo also uses iPad devices with its primates. For more information about this fascinating program, click here.

How Can You Help?

Please visit our Amazon Wish List page and consider making an enrichment item donation to your favorite animal. The list changes frequently, so please visit our page often.

Browse our Amazon Wish List: