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The Milwaukee County Zoo Hosts
Its First Animal Enrichment Day

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Tree kangaroo
The Zoo's tree kangaroo uses tree browse as a form of enrichment, allowing her to display natural behaviors, similar to what she would in the wild.

The Association of Zoos and Aquariums defines animal enrichment as, “a dynamic process for enhancing animal environments within the context of the animals’ behavioral biology and natural history.” For animal care staff at the Milwaukee County Zoo, this translates into finding unique and safe ways to encourage animals to show their natural behaviors; thus keeping their minds active and healthy, and ultimately enhancing their overall welfare. On Wednesday, June 25, visitors can see firsthand how the zookeepers provide enrichment for many of our 3,000+ animals in our care during Animal Enrichment Day, taking place from 9 a.m. to
4 p.m.

A variety of enrichment stations will be located throughout the Zoo, displaying and explaining the five different types of enrichment, and how the zookeepers use these techniques to keep the animals active and healthy. Stations will be available from 9 a.m. to noon.

The five types of enrichment used at the Milwaukee County Zoo include:

  • Environmental: Includes the enhancement of, or alteration to, an animal’s habitat with the goal of adding complexity to its environment.
  • Foods/Feeding: Includes extending feeding time, making feeding time challenging and promoting natural feeding strategies.
  • Manipulative: Includes providing animals with items that can be manipulated in some way, using its paws, hands, head, feet, horns or mouth for exploratory play.
  • Sensory: Includes all of an animals’ senses (visual, smell, hearing, taste and touch) to stimulate natural behaviors.
  • Social/Behavioral: Includes the use of animals’ natural history to create social groupings observed in the wild, which facilitates feeding, grooming and
    courtship behaviors.

Also, zookeepers will present talks throughout the day, in the different animal areas, showing a variety of the items used for enrichment. Some of the animals that will be featured include: gorillas, elephants, octopus, meerkats, hippos, and straw-colored fruit bats, to mention a few.

Additional activities include giving visitors opportunities to: forage like an orangutan (search for a treat in a tub of shredded material), stimulate senses with a scent game (guess the scent in containers which are used to stimulate the big cats), experience a Zoo exhibit like an animal, participate in a training game with zookeepers, and use the actual enrichment items that our animals interact with. Even learn how enrichment can be used with your own pets, and make your own puzzle feeder (while supplies last).

Join us for this unique special event at the Zoo – event activities are free with regular Zoo admission. For more information on Animal Enrichment Day, contact the Zoo’s Public Affairs and Services Division at 414.256.5411.