Two members of the Houston Zoo team, Tarah Jacobs and Kevin Hodge, are currently in China. Tarah and Kevin are working with Chinese Zoos and blogging about their experience abroad.

This post was written by Kevin Hodge.

Today with the class we decided to pick a section of the Zoo that was most in need of enrichment.  The four groups, Tarah, and I picked different animals to enrich and we talked with the group about what behaviors we would try and encourage.   The group picked animals from the section that were in smaller, less complex exhibits. These animals either showed stereotypical behaviors or were difficult to see because they were always hiding.

exhibitWe gathered PVC pipes, boxes, wood wool, paper bags, newspaper, perfume, and spices along with food items from each of the animal’s diets.  We gave a workshop on how to make puzzle feeders out of PVC and had each group construct their own PVC feeders.  The students were very excited and impressed us with their creativity and how much effort they put in to making new toys and perching for the animals.  After we finished making our enrichment, each group gave it to the animal that they selected. As we watched the animals interact with their new enrichment items, the group that created the enrichment gave a presentation on what they had created and what behaviors they hoped to encourage or discourage.  After all of the animals received their enrichment we evaluated its success and talked about what could have been done differently the next time they gave enrichment.

groupTarah and I fell in love with the raccoon dogs and the wild boars that we decided to enrich for our project. We presented to the group on we gave as well. All of the animals including the red foxes, Arctic foxes, raccoons, raccoon dogs and wild boars really seemed to enjoy the enrichment.  There is still a little bit of a struggle in China to get all the keepers on board with providing enrichment.  One of the keepers in the section was upset because we were creating a big mess for him to clean up the next day.  After speaking with the Director he agreed that since we told him it is important to meet the animal’s, guest’s and keeper’s needs  he allowed the keeper to pick up a little each day instead of having to pick it all up at once.  Hopefully, the keeper will begin to see the benefits of providing enrichment and will soon start to give out enrichment on his own.

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