Captive animal enrichment programs

WHY GET INVOLVED IN CAPTIVE ANIMAL ENRICHMENT?

We are often asked how COAPE International, as an institute that educates people on animal emotional and behavioural well-being can be involved with someplace as controversial as zoos.   The answer is simple:  there are animals living in captivity all over the world, and whether we agree with the premise of zoos in our personal capacity or not, it is our responsibility to do everything in our power to contribute positively to those animals’ emotional and behavioural well-being.  The reality of animals living in captivity also includes animals living in reserves, where they are being slaughtered faster than they can breed, so for COAPE, conservation and education are of the utmost importance.  We get involved with individual problems, not campaigning ones, because we work with practical animal problems in a day to day setting.

It is easy to get drawn into an endless debate about whether animals belong in captivity or not, or whether zoos play a useful role in conservation and education.  However, these debates have very little real impact on animals living in captivity right now.  At COAPE, our focus is to develop and implement ground-breaking, scientifically sound and humane protocols to improve the emotional and behavioural welfare of any animal, and to share that knowledge with any organization who asks.

We are involved because we want to make a difference; a real, tangible positive difference in the lives of the animals around the world, whether it’s Jingo the Labrador or Jingo the elephant.  COAPE’s purpose is to share our knowledge and experience with people who work with animals daily, to improve animal lives right now so that every day lived is as good as it can be, under the circumstances.  The reason why COAPE has donated years of our time and expertise arranging sponsorships for enclosure upgrades, doing staff training, developing and researching enrichment protocols and helping with their implementation is because we believe that that is the only way to make a real difference in the day to day lives of the animals, and because for us, education and understanding is key.  Shouting at an institution doesn’t make the lives ‘on the ground’ any better.  At our core, COAPE believes in motivation, and that emotions are the driving force behind behaviour.  We also believe that that applies not only to animals, but to people as well.  We understand that it’s an emotive issue for many people, and that it is something people are very passionate about. However, COAPE decided to not get involved in the politics, and instead, continues to focus only on what we CAN do to make a tangible difference for the animals and people.  Not just for Johannesburg Zoo, but for any other captive wildlife facility, by sharing our knowledge about animal behaviour and the ground-breaking EMRA methodology developed by COAPE.  We are sharing this methodology with other parties around the world, where we are developing and evaluating it in collaboration with their experts, while working towards it being implemented by as many establishments as possible, to improve animal welfare from a behavioural perspective.

Let me tell you about what COAPE does as part of our enrichment and training program.  We help to develop enrichment and training programs based on countless hours of research and discussions with experts from zoos and captive facilities around the world.  We monitor behavioural and emotional responses to these programs when they are implemented. We work with the Zoo teams, including the enrichment officers and care staff, who are the people who makes all this happen on daily basis.  We help with training for both the staff and the animals. We volunteer time, expertise and services that would perhaps otherwise not have been available.  We cultivate sponsorships to assist with upgrading enclosures where possible, in order to meet behavioural needs in animals.  We research equipment that can be used to improve quality of life such as the Wild Dog Pulley Feeding system that was recently installed at the Johannesburg Zoo and which was sponsored by RAE Safaris.  We get involved in projects because COAPE believes in conservation via education.

COAPE believes that training must be done only if the animal chooses to participate, and that no animal should be forced to engage, that is why we use clicker training in our training. We teach staff how to clicker train and show them how to put this into action.  But throughout all training, we emphasise one point:  If an animal does not want to interact or train, s/he is not forced, ever.

We are often asked why it’s necessary to teach the animals to do things like lie down, open your mouth or give your paw.  These exercises are only tricks in the same way that one can say teaching a dog to target to get him onto a scale at a vet, or teaching him to give paw so he can have his toenails clipped, or to lie down so you can groom him, are tricks.  Why would one need an elephant to lie down?  For one thing, medical procedures on feet (not for husbandry, that is done while they are standing). To treat injuries in hard to reach places.  Teaching an animal to willingly participate in routine medical procedures reduces not only stress but also the risks as sedation is not required.

Our program aims to enrich the lives of animals in captivity through several avenues which are all outlined in the section about enrichment, below. We are so grateful to so many experts in the captive animal environments worldwide who share their experience and knowledge with us, and in turn, we are happy to share our insights with them – all with the same goal in mind: to do the best we can, with what we have, for animals in captivity.

So, what is enrichment?

Enrichment makes something more meaningful, substantial, or rewarding. It improves something, like quality of life. Enrichment is when something is made more valuable: for animals, it means valuable things such as food, toys and the opportunity to explore their environments. Captive animals (while usually kept in top physical shape) are often left with quite a lot of free time, since they do not have to search for food, find mates or avoid danger. They also spend very little time exploring their environments, because there are very few changes that happen.

We assist in developing and implementing comprehensive enrichment programs, where the needs of each individual are studied and met through an enrichment program designed specifically for that animal. This enrichment program is carefully designed to encourage the animals in captivity to engage in very similar activities as their wild counterparts. The process is monitored and adapted so each animal gets the most out of the program.
There are five different categories that we focus on when providing enrichment. These are:

  1. Play enrichment.
  2. Social enrichment.
  3. Cognitive enrichment.
  4. Sensory enrichment.
  5. Food enrichment.

Play enrichment is where we use toys and social contact as a form of enrichment, for example playing tug of war with people, playing musical instruments or playing with bubble machines.

Social enrichment encourages social contact as a form of enrichment. This includes clicker training as this results in quality social contact with handlers.

Cognitive enrichment is when the animals are given puzzles to solve in order to get treats or food. They must really think about how to solve the problems, and this keeps them busy and stimulated for hours on end.

Sensory enrichment uses sensory exploration as a form of enrichment. Here, we use scratch and sniff scented objects hidden around enclosures for olfactory enrichment; herb gardens/baskets planted in the enclosures for taste enrichment; different textures like hay, cardboard boxes filled with feathers or leaves, straw, pebbles, etc. for tactile enrichment; and wind chimes / music for auditory enrichment.

Food enrichment utilizes the animal’s daily food in such a way that they must mimic foraging/hunting behaviour seen in the wild. The pulley system currently being used with the Wild Dogs in JHB Zoo is an example of this.  We hide food in hard to reach places to encourage primates to forage, and we provide meals in specially made feeders to encourage natural food acquisition behaviours in all the species.

In addition to these five categories, we also look at changes that can be made to enclosures to make them more stimulating for the animals. These changes include meeting species-specific needs like climbing structures for canopy dwelling monkeys or trees for spectacled bears.

Gallery

Quality Time

Quality Time

Spectacled Bears

Spectacled Bears

Mokoko With A Puzzle Box

Mokoko With A Puzzle Box

The Spider Monkeys

The Spider Monkeys

Mokoko The Gorilla Investigating His Treat

Mokoko The Gorilla Investigating His Treat

Delicious Icey Treat

Delicious Icey Treat

Keeper Pleasure and Attendant Sophina

Keeper Pleasure and Attendant Sophina

Keeper Minah

Keeper Minah

Spectacled Bears Investigate Frozen Treat

Spectacled Bears Investigate Frozen Treat

Mokoko Enjoying A Treat

Mokoko Enjoying A Treat

Condor Tug

Condor Tug

Honey Badger

Honey Badger

Volunteering

Volunteering

Attendant Pfanani

Attendant Pfanani

Icey Treat For The Spider Monkeys

Icey Treat For The Spider Monkeys

BG the Badger

BG the Badger

Bucket Feeder For The Giraffe

Bucket Feeder For The Giraffe

BG the Honey Badger

BG the Honey Badger

Annie The Spider Monkey

Annie The Spider Monkey

Primate Keeper

Primate Keeper

Creating Food Enrichment For The Tortoises

Creating Food Enrichment For The Tortoises

Hiding Treats In A Tree

Hiding Treats In A Tree

Giraffe Habituation

Giraffe Habituation

Primate Keeper

Primate Keeper

Jess Prinsloo and Tammy Gregor

Jess Prinsloo and Tammy Gregor

Windchimes

Windchimes

Tug of War

Tug of War

Mokoko The Gorilla's Frozen Treat

Mokoko The Gorilla's Frozen Treat

Feeder Pumpkin

Feeder Pumpkin

Ground Hornbil Feeding Box

Ground Hornbil Feeding Box

Tactile Enrichment

Tactile Enrichment

Mokoko the Gorilla

Mokoko the Gorilla

Karin Pienaar and Tammy Gregor

Karin Pienaar and Tammy Gregor

Hope

Hope

Leopard Tortoise Food Enrichment

Leopard Tortoise Food Enrichment

Reneé Venter Trust Training

Reneé Venter Trust Training

Jess Prinsloo

Jess Prinsloo

Condors

Condors

Foraging for Food

Foraging for Food

Clicker Training

Clicker Training

Spider Monkey

Spider Monkey

Macaw's Enjoy Treats

Macaw's Enjoy Treats

Mokoko the Gorilla

Mokoko the Gorilla

Mokoko Inspecting The Windchimes

Mokoko Inspecting The Windchimes

Leopard Tortoise

Leopard Tortoise

Browse For The Giraffe

Browse For The Giraffe

Ground Hornbills

Ground Hornbills

Grass Pad For The Spectacled Bears

Grass Pad For The Spectacled Bears

Feeder Platform

Feeder Platform

Spectacled Bear

Spectacled Bear

Feeding Time

Feeding Time

Tactile Enrichment

Tactile Enrichment

Honey Badger Feeder

Honey Badger Feeder

Movable Feeder Bowls

Movable Feeder Bowls

Mokoko The Gorilla

Mokoko The Gorilla

Mokoko The Gorilla Enjoying His Treat

Mokoko The Gorilla Enjoying His Treat

Clicker Training

Clicker Training

Food Toys

Food Toys

  • Quality Time
  • Spectacled Bears
  • Mokoko With A Puzzle Box
  • The Spider Monkeys
  • Mokoko The Gorilla Investigating His Treat
  • Delicious Icey Treat
  • Keeper Pleasure and Attendant Sophina
  • Keeper Minah
  • Spectacled Bears Investigate Frozen Treat
  • Mokoko Enjoying A Treat
  • Condor Tug
  • Honey Badger
  • Volunteering
  • Attendant Pfanani
  • Icey Treat For The Spider Monkeys
  • BG the Badger
  • Bucket Feeder For The Giraffe
  • BG the Honey Badger
  • Annie The Spider Monkey
  • Primate Keeper
  • Creating Food Enrichment For The Tortoises
  • Hiding Treats In A Tree
  • Giraffe Habituation
  • Primate Keeper
  • Jess Prinsloo and Tammy Gregor
  • Windchimes
  • Tug of War
  • Mokoko The Gorilla's Frozen Treat
  • Feeder Pumpkin
  • Ground Hornbil Feeding Box
  • Tactile Enrichment
  • Mokoko the Gorilla
  • Karin Pienaar and Tammy Gregor
  • Hope
  • Leopard Tortoise Food Enrichment
  • Reneé Venter Trust Training
  • Jess Prinsloo
  • Condors
  • Foraging for Food
  • Clicker Training
  • Spider Monkey
  • Macaw's Enjoy Treats
  • Mokoko the Gorilla
  • Mokoko Inspecting The Windchimes
  • Leopard Tortoise
  • Browse For The Giraffe
  • Ground Hornbills
  • Grass Pad For The Spectacled Bears
  • Feeder Platform
  • Spectacled Bear
  • Feeding Time
  • Tactile Enrichment
  • Honey Badger Feeder
  • Movable Feeder Bowls
  • Mokoko The Gorilla
  • Mokoko The Gorilla Enjoying His Treat
  • Clicker Training
  • Food Toys
  • Quality Time

    An important part of the enrichment programme with the Giraffes is to allow them time to adjust to our presence, and to learn to associate the COAPE team with good things.

  • Spectacled Bears

  • Mokoko With A Puzzle Box

  • The Spider Monkeys

    The Spider Monkeys have to feel around inside the bucket puzzle feeder through a tube to find the hidden food.

  • Mokoko The Gorilla Investigating His Treat

    Mokoko the Gorilla investigating his frozen ice lolly.

  • Delicious Icey Treat

  • Keeper Pleasure and Attendant Sophina

    Keeper Pleasure and Attendant Sophina setting up the ropes for the training session with the Condors.

  • Keeper Minah

    Keeper Minah installing enrichment in the King Vulture enclosure.

  • Spectacled Bears Investigate Frozen Treat

  • Mokoko Enjoying A Treat

  • Condor Tug

    When the Condors tug, they also open their wings, which we will later put on cue to facilitate stress-free medical examinations.

  • Honey Badger

    Touch training with a clicker provides BG the honey badger with mental stimulation and facilitates stress-free medical examinations.

  • Volunteering

    Matthew David Greenberg volunteered to install a fire hose feeder for Mokoko the gorilla at the Johannesburg Zoo.

  • Attendant Pfanani

    Attendant Pfanani installing enrichment in the King Vulture enclosure.

  • Icey Treat For The Spider Monkeys

  • BG the Badger

    BG the Honey Badger using his feeder platform.

  • Bucket Feeder For The Giraffe

  • BG the Honey Badger

    BG the Honey Badger using his fire hose feeder ball

  • Annie The Spider Monkey

    Annie the Spider Monkey investigating her new bucket puzzle feeder.

  • Primate Keeper

    Sharon (a primate Keeper at Joburg Zoo) helped us to install some enrichment in the Spider Monkey enclosure. The Joburg Zoo team are integral to the enrichment programme; a role they fulfil with tremendous enthusiasm!

  • Creating Food Enrichment For The Tortoises

  • Hiding Treats In A Tree

  • Giraffe Habituation

    Here, Tammy is working on habituation with the Giraffes by offering food that the Giraffes can come and take when they feel comfortable enough to approach her.

  • Primate Keeper

    Sharon (a primate Keeper at Joburg Zoo) helped us to install some enrichment in the Spider Monkey enclosure. The Joburg Zoo team are integral to the enrichment programme; a role they fulfil with tremendous enthusiasm!

  • Jess Prinsloo and Tammy Gregor

    Jess Prinsloo and Tammy Gregor, two of the Enrichment Programme Team Leaders with some frozen treats for Mokoko the gorilla

  • Windchimes

    A wind chime – as a form of auditory sensory enrichment – being installed by our Team Leaders, Lizelle Britz-Chapman and Jess Prinsloo, and Volunteer Harini Vallabh for Mokoko the Gorilla.

  • Tug of War

    Karin Pienaar from COAPE playing tug-of-war with a Condor. This is not just for fun – it actually forms part of their training, as well as being social enrichment.

  • Mokoko The Gorilla's Frozen Treat

    Mokoko the Gorilla enjoying his frozen vegetable treat on a hot day.

  • Feeder Pumpkin

    Using hollowed out pumpkins as feeders to hide meat for the Condors and King Vultures serves as food enrichment for these amazing birds.

  • Ground Hornbil Feeding Box

  • Tactile Enrichment

    Tactile enrichment forms an integral part of our enrichment programme with the Spectacled bears.

  • Mokoko the Gorilla

    Playing with a ball forms part of Mokoko’s the Gorilla’s enrichment.

  • Karin Pienaar and Tammy Gregor

    Karin Pienaar and Tammy Gregor from COAPE working with the Giraffes.

  • Hope

    Hope, an extremely dedicated animal attendant, helping us to habituate the giraffes to the presence of the COAPE team.

  • Leopard Tortoise Food Enrichment

  • Reneé Venter Trust Training

    Reneé Venter offering one of the Giraffe’s browse as part of trust training.

  • Jess Prinsloo

    Jess Prinsloo from COAPE working on gaining the giraffes’ trust by spending time with them.

  • Condors

    Tammy Gregor from COAPE working with the Andean Condors.

  • Foraging for Food

    Johannesburg Zoo staff hide Mokoko’s breakfast in the fire hose feeder, and Mokoko has to search each pocket to find the different rewards.

  • Clicker Training

    Katherine Visser, Primate Curator at The Johannesburg Zoo, and Jess Prinsloo from COAPE clicker training Spider Monkeys in the new Veterinary Hospital section.

  • Spider Monkey

    Training Spider Monkeys to target (touch) our hands forms part of their social enrichment, but also facilitates stress-free medical examinations.

  • Macaw's Enjoy Treats

  • Mokoko the Gorilla

    Mokoko the Gorilla with his red ball.

  • Mokoko Inspecting The Windchimes

  • Leopard Tortoise

  • Browse For The Giraffe

  • Ground Hornbills

  • Grass Pad For The Spectacled Bears

    A grass pad being installed for the Spectacled Bears for tactile enrichment.

  • Feeder Platform

    Volunteers Kate Slade and Renee Venter putting together a feeder platform for BG the Honey Badger.

  • Spectacled Bear

  • Feeding Time

    The feeding toys are used to mimic the King Vultures’ natural scavenging behaviour.

  • Tactile Enrichment

    We’ve installed several brushes and scratch patches in the Spectacled bears’ enclosure, and they really enjoy using them!

  • Honey Badger Feeder

    Fire hose feeder ball for the Honey Badger

  • Movable Feeder Bowls

    Movable feeder bowls for the Cichlids at the zoo.

  • Mokoko The Gorilla

    Tyre feeders that we use as part of Mokoko the Gorilla’s food enrichment.

  • Mokoko The Gorilla Enjoying His Treat

    Mokoko the Gorilla enjoying his frozen vegetable treat on a hot day.

  • Clicker Training

  • Food Toys

    Food toys form part of the food enrichment for the King Vultures and it keeps them busy all day long.

  • Quality Time
  • Spectacled Bears
  • Mokoko With A Puzzle Box
  • The Spider Monkeys
  • Mokoko The Gorilla Investigating His Treat
  • Delicious Icey Treat
  • Keeper Pleasure and Attendant Sophina
  • Keeper Minah
  • Spectacled Bears Investigate Frozen Treat
  • Mokoko Enjoying A Treat
  • Condor Tug
  • Honey Badger
  • Volunteering
  • Attendant Pfanani
  • Icey Treat For The Spider Monkeys
  • BG the Badger
  • Bucket Feeder For The Giraffe
  • BG the Honey Badger
  • Annie The Spider Monkey
  • Primate Keeper
  • Creating Food Enrichment For The Tortoises
  • Hiding Treats In A Tree
  • Giraffe Habituation
  • Primate Keeper
  • Jess Prinsloo and Tammy Gregor
  • Windchimes
  • Tug of War
  • Mokoko The Gorilla's Frozen Treat
  • Feeder Pumpkin
  • Ground Hornbil Feeding Box
  • Tactile Enrichment
  • Mokoko the Gorilla
  • Karin Pienaar and Tammy Gregor
  • Hope
  • Leopard Tortoise Food Enrichment
  • Reneé Venter Trust Training
  • Jess Prinsloo
  • Condors
  • Foraging for Food
  • Clicker Training
  • Spider Monkey
  • Macaw's Enjoy Treats
  • Mokoko the Gorilla
  • Mokoko Inspecting The Windchimes
  • Leopard Tortoise
  • Browse For The Giraffe
  • Ground Hornbills
  • Grass Pad For The Spectacled Bears
  • Feeder Platform
  • Spectacled Bear
  • Feeding Time
  • Tactile Enrichment
  • Honey Badger Feeder
  • Movable Feeder Bowls
  • Mokoko The Gorilla
  • Mokoko The Gorilla Enjoying His Treat
  • Clicker Training
  • Food Toys

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