Creating Better Captive Environments

NEW! Get instructions and ideas for enrichment devices, and learn more about environmental enrichment for zoo gorillas:

Food-Based Enrichment | Non-Food Based Enrichment

Enrichment Overview

Environmental enrichment is a husbandry principle that seeks to enhance animal care by providing stimuli that encourage natural behavior and promote psychological well-being. Through the use of environmental enrichment, the concepts of variability, choice, and environmental control are maximized within great ape facilities. Environmental enrichment for gorillas covers a wide variety of topics, which can be broken down into two broad categories: social (relationships with other gorillas, relationships with caretakers) and physical (living space, diet, browse, substrate, and manipulable, nonfood objects). Examples of social enrichment include housing with other gorillas and providing opportunities for interaction with keepers. Examples of physical enrichment include novel presentation of food items, variation in living spaces, and provision of objects for play or interaction.

Environmental enrichment is truly effective when it increases the choices available for individuals and includes diversity and change. The amount of control that an individual animal is able to exercise over its environment, both social and physical, is directly proportional to the number of behavioral choices that it can utilize within its environment. Individuals that possess a sense of control based on positive, species-typical activities are more behaviorally competent than those that do not. In a social setting, enrichment is a powerful force to give each member of a group the maximum amount of choice, and therefore control, possible. Appropriate enrichment techniques can serve as the social catalyst that promotes positive and constructive interactions among individuals.