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.
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.
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.