The Shape of Enrichment

A source of ideas for animal enrichment

March 24, 2017
by Karen Worley

13th International Conference on Environmental Enrichment Coming Up in May!

ICEE location photo

The 13th International Conference on Environmental Enrichment is coming up, May 15-19, 2017, in Bogotá, Colombia – the first ever ICEE in South America! This promises to be a unique and exciting conference, in a beautiful setting with a great group of people, and lots of opportunity for discussion, problem solving, hands-on workshops, and brainstorming ideas.

The conference will be hosted at the Jaime Duque Park, located in the town of Tocancipá. Jaime Duque Park is considered one of the best themed parks in Colombia, a center for recreation and cultural activities. One of the main attractions is the Wakatá Biopark zoo, an ecological reserve with more than 600 animals from 112 species, focused on the preservation of Colombian species.

During the conference, transportation will be provided to and from the conference hotels, NH Hacienda Royal Hotel and Wellness Hotel and Spa, both located in Bogotá City, to Jaime Duque Park for all sessions and activities. The NH Hacienda Royal is a five-star hotel with a cost to conference attendees of US$98 per night, and the Wellness is a four-star hotel with a cost of US$63 per night.

Registration is OPEN: register on the host website at Registration is US$400, which includes lunches, snacks, and special event dinners. Presentation and paper submissions are also still being accepted, so put together a presentation of what you and your facility have been doing with enrichment and submit a brief abstract (via the website) describing it!

You can find a brochure about the conference here:

Hope to see you in Bogotá!

May 1, 2016
by Karen Worley

Trying Different Enrichments for Coatis in Different Zoos: What Can We Expect?

By Caroline Marques Maia and Eliana Ferraz Santos, Laboratory of Physiology and Behavior, São Paulo State University; Bosque dos Jequitibás Zoo; São Paulo, Brazil

Coati_Edu FortesCoatis Bosque dos Jequitibás zoo in Campinas and Municipal Ecological Park Armando Muller in Paulínia have each housed three coatis (Nasua nasua): three related females (mother, daughter, and niece) in Campinas that were born there, and two females and one castrated male in Paulínia, which came from the non-governmental organization Associação Mata Ciliar, in Jundiaí, Brazil. In Campinas, the enclosure was larger (200 m²) and not fenced (Figure 1, below right). The substrate was dirt and the coatis were fed only once a day in the morning. On the other hand, in Paulínia, the enclosure was smaller (64 m2), surrounded and covered by wire mesh, and the soil was covered by vegetation (Figure 2, below left). Moreover, the animals were fed in the morning and also in the evening.

Coati enclosure_Julia Talazzo de CamposCoati enclosure 2_Julia Talazzo de CamposAlthough the most frequent behaviors of these coatis in both zoos were sleeping and moving on the ground (21% and 33% in Campinas and 47% and 22% in Paulínia, respectively), the coatis of Paulínia Zoo slept significantly more than in Campinas Zoo (Goodman’s proportion test, P<0.05). Moreover, a female in Campinas Zoo exhibited pacing, while the male in Paulínia Zoo exhibited excessive territory marking, both considered stereotypic behaviors. Thus, we tested whether enrichment could improve the conditions of these coatis, especially in Paulínia Zoo.

We recorded the behaviors of the coatis before and during the implementation of the enrichment, using the scan sampling technique at fixed intervals of 10 min, thus obtaining the frequency of the behaviors for the coatis’ group in each zoo. We recorded the following behaviors: feed; move on the ground; move on the trunks/fence; remain stationary on the ground; remain stationary on the trunks/fence; interaction with other coatis or objects; dig; grooming/scratching; sleep; or stay out of view (in shelters or in chambers). The enrichment was always applied in the morning.

The enrichment offered were live insect larvae (tenebrio); fresh strawberries; frozen fruit; ox heart; basil branches; ox leather in the shape of a bone (purchased at pet shop); toy made of PVC pipe with small holes and containing basil; long ropes of sisal with pine cones tied at the end; curtains made of sisal ropes; two attractive scents (Canine Call and Pro’s Choice); and sandbox with earthworms and millipedes. These last two enrichments were not used in Paulínia, as they were not allowed by the zoo institution or were difficult to transport. The behavioral data were compared between periods with and without the enrichment for each zoo, and also between the zoos by Goodman’s proportion test (P<0.05 for statistical significance).

There was no significant effect of the enrichment on the proportional frequencies of the behaviors previously observed within each zoo (Goodman’s proportion test, P>0.05). However, the animals interacted with the enrichment in different ways, depending on the zoo, and some new behaviors appeared with the implementation of some specific items. The initial enrichment with tenebrio larvae did not attract the coatis of Campinas Zoo. Instead, these larvae were then offered freely on the ground in the enclosure, leading these coatis to consume them and dig in places where some of the larvae had been buried. In Paulínia Zoo, the coatis rubbed the flour culture the larvae were in on themselves, but few of the larvae were consumed. The pieces of ox heart were eaten only in Campinas Zoo, and just a few strawberries were consumed in both zoos. Regarding frozen fruit enrichment, when the ice melted, papaya and banana were consumed in Campinas. In Paulínia, few fruits were consumed, but the coatis scraped their nails in the ice and the male rubbed in the melted water and ice. All earthworms and millipedes were consumed in the morning in Campinas Zoo, but not in Paulínia.

Coati w log_Daniele Victoratti do CarmoCoatis from both zoos interacted with the sisal curtain, the hanging pinecones, and PVC pipe with basil. In Paulínia, the curtain was tied to the ceiling fence of the enclosure, so the coatis were able to hang on it and move around on it, a behavior not previously observed. In Campinas Zoo, just one female kept one ox leather bone, gnawing it periodically, while in Paulínia Zoo all the ox leather bones were gnawed throughout the day. In addition, coatis rubbed the earth moistened with scents and the basil on their bodies. In both zoos, these last two enrichments resulted in behaviors not previously observed: marking while sitting and salivation in excess.

When comparing the data between the zoos, the significant difference initially observed in relation to the sleeping behavior disappeared with the enrichment (Goodman’s proportion test, P>0.05).

The fact that Campinas’ coatis received food just once a day in the morning may explain why the food enrichment was better used than in Paulínia Zoo. Although the enrichment did not affect the frequency of any behavior observed before their implementation, some of them resulted in new behaviors, thus increasing the behavioral repertoire. These results demonstrate that the sisal curtain positioned in a way that enables the animals to hang on it, as well as enrichments involving scents and basil may be successful for captive coatis. Because Paulínia’s coatis initially slept significantly more than in Campinas Zoo, a difference eliminated by the enrichment, the conditions of the coatis in Paulínia was probably more affected and improved after the implementation of the enrichment. However, as stereotyped behaviors were not affected in either of the zoos, more specific enrichment should be tried to eliminate or at least reduce the frequency of these behaviors.

Photo credits: top left, Edu Fortes; bottom left, Daniele Victoratti do Carmo; right top and bottom, Julia Talazzo de Campos 

May 17, 2015
by Karen Worley

Mapping How Grizzly Bears Use Their Enclosure

By Beth Cinadr, Educational Animal Assistant, Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, Ohio, USA

Cleveland Metroparks Zoo is AZA accredited and very involved in enrichment programs. Enrichment is a dynamic process for enhancing animal environments within the context of the animals’ behavioral biology and natural history (Association of Zoos & Aquariums, 2012). Environmental enrichment can be defined as an animal husbandry principle that seeks to enhance the quality of captive care by identifying and providing environmental stimuli necessary for optimal psychological and physiological well-being (Shepherdson, 1998). Our zoo categorizes enrichment into seven types: foraging, self-maintenance, sensual, structural and locomotion, diet, intelligence, and environmental (Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, 2006).

B - 4 bears

Grizzly Bears and Enrichment

The goal of our study was to determine, using a mapping technique, how the grizzlies at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo interact with all areas of their enclosure. Any enrichment program hopes to get a positive response from the animals while promoting investigation and typical behaviors (Young, 2003). The key behaviors that we seek to encourage in the bears are: rubbing, olfactory, nesting, and foraging. The four grizzlies in this study—two brothers, Cooper and Cody, and a brother and sister, Jackson and Cheyenne, all about two years old (the males are neutered)—have an enrichment plan in place to help achieve these behavior goals. By conducting this mapping study, we wanted to see if the bears were displaying these behaviors within all locations, and with the enrichment items provided, from which we could determine that the enclosure is creating a stimulating atmosphere for these bears to live in.

Mapping to Understand Enclosure Use

Creating a map to gather behavioral data offers organization and an overview of the subject, a projection of reality. Maps can bring to light complex environmental needs, knowledge, and uses, and mapping has the power to name, define, locate, and situate (Rochleau, 2009). Chambers discusses mobility mapping, which allows one to see who goes where and how often. Mobility mapping can come in handy especially when concerning the welfare of animals. Maps promote living in an age where there is a sense, and perhaps a reality, of accelerating change (Chambers, 2006). Mapping offers a positive movement for change when needed.


Using an overhead photograph of the enclosure from Google Maps, we created a map of the grizzly bears’ enclosure by dividing the area into eight sections, based on size and enclosure features (see Figure 1).
The enclosure features were also labeled on the map to further illustrate what the grizzlies’ can interact with. A large downed tree trunk was the middle point to separate top and bottom rows. It is about 20 B - Figure 1feet long and is found in zones 3 and 5. The first seven zones are land and the eighth includes a waterfall and pool.

The study recorded each bear’s location in the exhibit and behavior at 5-minute intervals over the course of 30 minutes. These observation sets were done for a total of four days. These location points were used to calculate which exhibit sections the bears spend most of their time in.

Figure 1. Zones of the Grizzly Bear Habitat at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. Overhead view.


Each of the data points were totaled and calculated to create percentages of time spent in each zone. This gave a great overall picture of how the grizzlies were exploring their habitat (Figure 2). The grizzlies spent the most time in Zone 2. This zone was where they were found sleeping as well, so this might account for that result. The bears spent a greater amount of time in the front row of zones, closest to the visitors (Zones 2, 4, 6). Perhaps due to the oncoming colder weather, the bears did not come into contact with the water features except for a quick drink. These bears were very active, not only with features of the enclosure but each other as well. The grizzly bears frequently interacted with enrichment items in their enclosure.

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Figure 2. Pie chart displaying zone totals for the four grizzly bears over the observational time period.


The aim of this study was to determine how the four grizzly bears at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo interact with their enclosure, enrichment items, and each other. It was found that the four grizzly bears are active in all locations and with many items that are in the enclosure. The location map will also help the caretakers track the bears going forward. If location percentages change, there might be a reason that the keepers can address. Keepers can keep the enclosure interactive by placing new
enrichment items in areas where the bears could be spending more time. Since this study showed that the bears spend time pretty equally in all areas of the enclosure, it lets the keepers know they have thoroughly enriched this enclosure in a way that is stimulating to them.B - bears with enrichment



















Grizzly bears interacting with various items. From top left, clockwise: plastic ball (6), rubber tire (4), Herring fish (6), piece of tree bark (2). Photos by Cleveland Metroparks Zoo.

Zoo visitors also seemed to benefit from the bear enrichment. During observations, when enrichment items were visible in the enclosure, the visitors would voice that the bears are “playing” or “having a good time.” These observations support that enrichment programs are beneficial to both animals and visitors. Quality enrichment programs provide the animals with interactive/stimulating experiences while educating and entertaining zoo visitors.

Creating maps such as the ones used in this study can be helpful in documenting animal activity and changes in behavior according to location in the exhibit. There was a similar study done on gray wolf behavior in small and large enclosures. The study tested to see whether space restrictions alter a wolf’s behavior. The researchers found there was no difference in activity levels based on size of enclosures (Kreeger et. al, 1998). Maps can also aid in helping visitors learn about where the animals can be seen in their enclosures.


As a keeper, the goal is to create an interactive and natural enclosure for the animals. Enclosures should optimize the area for maximum usage and interaction. Keeping detailed maps such as this will help keepers assess their animal’s welfare and their use of enrichment to improve the animals’ behaviors on and off exhibit.


Association of Zoos & Aquariums. (2012). Accreditation Standards and Related Policies; Silver Springs.
Chambers, R. (2006). Participatory mapping and geographic information systems: Whose map? Who is empowered and who dis-empowered? Who gains and who loses? The Electronic Journal on Information Systems in Developing Countries, 25, 1-11.
Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. (2006). Cleveland Metroparks Zoo Animal Environmental Enrichment Policy; Cleveland.
Kreeger, T. J., Pereira, D. L., Callahan, M. and Beckel, M. (1996), Activity patterns of gray wolves housed in small vs. large enclosures. Zoo Biol., 15: 395–401.
Rocheleau, D. (2005). Maps as power tools: Locating communities in space or situating people and ecologies in place? From Brosius, J.P., Tsing, A.L. and Zerner, C. (eds.), Communities and Conservation. New York, NY: Altamira Press. Chapter 13, pp. 327-362.
Shepherdson, D.J., Mellen, J.D., Hutchins, M. (1998). Second Nature: Environmental Enrichment for Captive Animals; Smithsonian Institution Press, London.
Young, R.J. (2003). Environmental Enrichment for Captive Animals; Blackwell Science Ltd., O.


April 6, 2015
by shapeadmin

Welcome to the New Shape of Enrichment Publication!

The Shape of Enrichment is moving to a new blog format for its publication. Rather than creating a newsletter in printed and PDF format that is distributed a few times a year, we will now be publishing articles about enrichment through this blog, and each article will be posted as soon as it has been edited and reviewed. In this way, we hope to provide content to our subscribers more frequently and in a quicker and easier format that can be accessed on any device wherever you are!

To access The Shape of Enrichment, you will need to register on our website,, and order a subscription to this online blog. You can purchase the subscription online with a credit card or by sending a check, but you must be a registered user. You will then be notified each time there is a new post. Only subscribers will have access to the blog publication. In addition, subscribers will have access to subscriber-only sections of our website and the Enrichment Idea Database, a collection of vetted enrichment ideas that is searchable by taxa, species, type of enrichment, and other options.

We are accepting article submissions for this blog from anyone involved in enrichment: keepers, curators, aquarists, enrichment coordinators, animal behaviorists, researchers, caretakers in domestic situations, and more. If you have an enrichment idea that has worked well – or one that you like but still need to improve upon – please submit it to us at so it can be shared with the animal enrichment and welfare community!