Avoinna tänään 10–18



Enrichment for the animals

In nature, animals come across a tremendous amount of different things that they experience through different senses. Prey animals must be wary of predators, and predators can follow prey across long distances. In addition to finding food, animals spend a lot of time looking for a mate. When they are held in captivity, there is plenty of food and water around, the environment is safe and even a mate can be found nearby. To ensure that the animals have enough enjoyable things to do, zookeepers plan and arrange various enrichment activities for them.

When planning these activities, the natural temperament and behaviour of the species must be taken into account; the same kind of enrichment does not suit all animals. Nor can the same activities be used too often on the same animal to maintain their desired effect. In many cases, but not always, the enrichment activities have to do with food and finding it. At its simplest, an enrichment activity may consist of an activation toy, such as a ball, that many people have in their homes. Korkeasaari Zoo is constantly developing new enrichment activities for the animals. Studies constantly bring in new information concerning the needs that are crucial for the well-being of animals. This information is then utilised in the development of the activities. Experiences and ideas are also shared internationally as part of the cooperation between zoos.

Enriching feeding

When food is offered in an enriching way, the animal gets to use both its brain and its brawn to acquire it. The food can be hidden in cardboard boxes or cloth bags, hung from a rope or flexible bungee cord, hidden inside various activation toys and placed in high or otherwise difficult places.

Predators retain their instinct to hunt even in zoo conditions. In nature, hunting consists of several stages, one of which is mauling the prey. This is why zookeepers use methods such as putting meat in jute bags filled with hay and hung by ropes: it allows the feline to better tear its food. All predators do not hunt during the day, so their food rhythm contains days of fasting even in the zoo. Zoo animals cannot be offered live prey, with the exception of insects. Many animals living in the Tropical Houses get to hunt grasshoppers and dig for mealworms in various places.

Sensory enrichments

Sensing and looking for prey are stages of the hunt, and a trail of blood can lead a predator to its food even in the zoo. Scents are also significant in animal communication. Scent enrichment, such as bedding or droppings brought in from another animal’s enclosure activate predators to survey their environment. They also enjoy other powerful scents, such as various spices and perfumes. These could be hidden inside a jute bag, for example, or sprinkled on a snowman or tree trunk. Scents of humans, such as the scents left by a zookeeper’s hands or shoes, can also be interesting.

In addition to smell, other senses can also be utilised in the planning of enrichments. We have experimented with a sound tunnel for small monkeys that begins to play the sounds of the rainforest when a monkey enters it, for example. The animal can also be given the opportunity to look at various photos and videos, and even change them at the press of a button.

Elements in the enclosure

An enriching enclosure is versatile and it resembles the species’ natural habitat. Different species require different enclosures, so at Korkeasaari Zoo each space is designed to meet the needs of the animal that lives there. The animal must be able to use its surroundings so that its natural, species-specific needs are met as well as possible. The minimum size of the enclosure is defined by animal protection regulations, or species-specific space norms.

When an enclosure is decorated, it is fitted with hiding places and observation spots, for example. Enriching elements may include climbing trees, lounging platforms, protective vegetation, caves, digging and rummaging spots and water pools, for example. The pen may also be fitted with brushes suitable for scratching. Animal enclosures are always designed with hiding places, because at Korkeasaari Zoo the animals have the option to withdraw out of sight if they wish to be in peace.

Animal training

At Korkeasaari Zoo, the zookeepers train animals in various things. However, this does not mean circus tricks. Training is an enjoyable activity for the animals and it also teaches them things that make caring for them easier. Training is always based on a plan and it is done through the positive by rewarding the animal. The animal participates in the activity voluntarily and it always has the option to withdraw from the situation if it chooses to. The most common reward is food.

Training yields everyday benefits for both the animal and the zookeeper. An animal can be trained so that it can be easily called to the back room while the enclosure is cleaned or stocked with food, for example.

A trained animal does not have to be anesthetised for small treatment procedures, and when anaesthesia is required, it can be done with less stress to the animal. When an animal enters a transportation crate voluntarily, it is much easier and safer for the animal, the zookeeper as well as the vet.

Social enrichment

Pack animals have the company of the pack even in Korkeasaari Zoo, and hermits get to be by themselves like they would be in the wild. For the lion, having a pride mate is important, but the other large felines in Korkeasaari Zoo are often more comfortable without continuous companionship. However, they still communicate with each other using sound and scent cues, and interaction is important for them especially during mating season. Taking care of cubs can also be an important part of social behaviour, as it is with Barbary macaques who take care of their young together as a pack.

Interaction can also occur between different species living in the same enclosure. Camels and goitered gazelles, for example, share an enclosure at Korkeasaari Zoo because they also share the same habitat in the wild. Social interaction also occurs between the animal and the zookeeper.

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