Enrichment in all weathers
This year Mother Nature has presented us with some odd weather. Okay, the last several years we have had odd weather. Each animal department at Zoo Atlanta has to make a plan each day based on the temperatures and changes in weather patterns. Recently, there has been a lot of rain in Atlanta. Rain is a totally normal weather pattern, of course, but the amount of rain and the strength of the rainfall is a completely different story! I can only speak for the Primate Team, which will give the animals the choice to go outside if the weather is not too bad. In the wild, they can find ways to take cover if they chose to, so we offer them the same opportunities. We call this giving the animals “access” to their indoor areas for shelter from the weather. Obviously, if the weather is too severe we take that into account and make certain arrangements.
When the animals are inside due to undesirable weather, we provide them with additional enrichment opportunities to keep them stimulated. Their habitats present several options for foraging and interacting with their environment. Indoors, we offer them much to do to make sure they are staying active and engaged with each other and their indoor environment. There is a video on Zoo Atlanta’s social media of the gorillas interacting with one of their swings, providing opportunities for the youngsters to socialize and play the way youngsters are supposed to. This is a very important developmental behavior. We were also generously donated a Primarocker enrichment item for the animals, and Pongo is certainly getting some use out of it. Pongo enjoys placing a pile of hay inside to make it comfortable and sits right in the middle of it, spinning around and rocking back and forth. This is another example of play behavior as well as working on his nest building skills.
The animals and their care teams are always grateful for these donations so we can offer the animals in our care many new opportunities to interact with each other and their environment, whether it’s a foraging opportunity or play, or any number of other natural behaviors. We have many things we can use or create to make sure that no matter what the weather or circumstance, the animals in our care are provided with opportunities to make choices and have control over their environments while displaying species-appropriate natural behavior. This is the main goal of our enrichment program here at Zoo Atlanta.
On your next visit you might be able to point out the enrichment offered for that day, although a lot of the enrichment on the habitats are made to look natural so it blends in well. If you can point anything out, then kudos to you!
Keeper II, Primates