The shape of enrichment, inc.

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The Shape of Enrichment

The Shape of Enrichment, Inc. is a non-profit corporation founded in 1991 that is dedicated to promoting environmental and behavioral enrichment efforts for animals in human care, and encouraging improvements in animal welfare worldwide through education and international exchanges of enrichment theory and application.


We at The Shape of Enrichment want to thank eveyone who has supported us and participated in our organization over the years—you are all amazing! Things have changed considerably for our organization, and so we have scaled back on what we do. As a result, we are no longer a member/subscriber organization, but one that provides information and education only. We no longer produce a publication, but we will offer our prior publications dating back to 1991 as downloadable PDFs free of charge—that's coming, but please be patient, as it will take some time to get that sorted and posted. There are some conferences and workshops continuing to take place, hosted by Shape regional groups, so keep an eye on social media for those announcements. At this time, it is unlikely that the Interntional Conference on Environmental Enrichment (ICEE) will continue, and one is not planned at present. If that should change, we will be sure to let you know!

Thank you again to all who have worked with us, shared information, donated, and contributed articles over these last 30+ years. It's been a wild ride! We'll stay in touch here and in social media with information and educational materials about enrichment as we have them, and we hope you will use and share them. Keep up all the good and creative work—you are all making a huge difference for the animals in your care!

About Enrichment

Definition of Environmental Enrichment

Enrichment is a dynamic process for enhancing animal environments within the context of the animals behavioral biology and natural history. Environmental changes are made with the goal of increasing the animal's behavioral choices and drawing out their species-appropriate behaviors, thus enhancing animal welfare.
—1999 AZA Behavior Scientific Advisory Group

Individuals or Populations?

When considering animal welfare and environmental enrichment, it is critical to remember that both are individual-based. While animal caretakers and managers are often concerned with populations, enrichment and welfare are not – what is beneficial to one individual may not be for another.

Environmental Enrichment Plans

At The Shape of Enrichment, Inc., we feel there are some principles that are critical to achieving successful and efficient enrichment plans. 

Enrichment plans should be holistic. To ensure that we consider all aspects of the environment, we recognize 5 categories of enrichment. These categories are not mutually exclusive. Each category should be represented appropriately in an animal's enrichment plan.

  • Social
  • Cognitive
  • Physical
  • Sensory
  • Food

Enrichment plans should be goal-driven. Behavioral goals should be determined to direct the enrichment strategies and schedules for an animal. The goals may be general (e.g. increase exploration) or specific (e.g. encourage olfactory investigation). There may be multiple goals for a given animal, and there may be multiple enrichment strategies offered. 

Enrichment plans should be assessed both initially and periodically throughout the year. The method of assessment may vary but the intent is to determine if a new enrichment strategy is meeting your behavioral goal, and if it continues to do so over time. If a new enrichment strategy is not meeting the goal (or if it has ceased to do so over time), modifications should be explored. 

Enrichment Framework. To ensure that enrichment plans are goal-oriented, tested, and assessed, we encourage the use of a planning protocol. Several have been developed and are in use today. For its simplicity and flexibility, we recommend the Shape Planning Flow Chart, which can be downloaded from our Resources page.

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Host a Shape of Enrichment Workshop at your Facility

The Shape of Enrichment, Inc. has held workshops at zoos and aquariums around the world. Most workshops are four to five days long, and include classroom-style presentations about what enrichment is, how to go about planning and implementing enrichment for individuals or groups of animals, safety considerations, and different enrichment approaches. Then we get hands-on and work in groups to choose, create, and build enrichment items, and give them to the animals to see how they respond. It's a lively, rewarding, and comprehensive way to learn about enrichment—or refresh your skills!

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