What is all that Trash in the Animal Enclosures.
Rae Leah Sidwell
Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo
Currently that is the Number One question from visitors at Henry Doorly Zoo. Docents have been involved in enrichment projects in the past upon requests from our keepers, but they were always used behind the scenes as the policy in effect stated anything on public display had to be natural. Members Day and a few other special events were exceptions.
In July 2010 a new Staff position was created to take animal training and enrichment programs to a new level. Jason (Jay) Pratte came from Zoo Atlanta to join Henry Doorly Zoo, Omaha NE. His background is Zoology and Behavioral Psychology. Jay works with the keepers to enhance their daily animal training to provide better management with less stress for the animals.
One of Jay’s first actions was to contact Kathy Vires, Volunteer Manager in charge of the Docents. He wanted to encourage the Docents to take charge of the Enrichment Program. Linda Sutherland, a Docent, has a background in Animal Behavior. She was the ideal individual to head the committee.
As volunteers, we formed an Enrichment Committee in September and jumped in with both feet. The realization that we needed to provide choices for our animals and enhance their lives became an important focus for the committee. We collected “wish lists” and ideas from individual keepers and researched many options for our creative members to make. Our new Behavioral Husbandry Manager also helped us develop ideas. Our Nutritionist and Veterinarians play a distinct role in sanctioning the materials we use and nothing is released to our animals until it has been approved. Animal safety is our first priority. It has been a learning process for all of the Zoo…..some trial and error, but basically a very positive experience. We are so pleased with the reaction the animals have had and of course that is what really matters.
Enrichment activities and goals are to provide animals with challenges, environmental stimulation and physical and mental exercise. These activities are as essential to animal health and well-being as proper nutrition and medical care. They help to provide a better overall quality of life. Enrichment can be toys, scents, new dietary items or social interaction. Basically anything that promotes psychological well- being and is designed to elicit natural behaviors.
Workshops are held twice a month or, if a special request from keepers is received, occasional extra workshops are held.
All workshops are on a voluntary basis.
Linda Sutherland and the Enrichment Committee coordinate all of the keepers requests and notify the volunteers of any special requests for specific items via e-mail. Everyone is now in the habit of recycling, especially after looking at items in different ways from their original purpose. This also helps all of us to think GREEN !