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The Milwaukee County Zoo’s
Enrichment Program

Jaguar, Pat
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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 accreditation 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: Zookeepers use the natural history of the animals to create social groupings observed in the wild, which facilitates feeding, grooming, and courtship behaviors. This includes creating mixed species exhibits. Animals' daily routine also includes training with both zookeepers and other animals, which helps build trust and rapport.

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.

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