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Foraging enrichment

Hello! It’s Courtney from the Primate Team! I would first like to say how nice it is to see guests walking through the Zoo again and enjoying the wonderful views of animals. It certainly was strange and quiet not having any visitors, but believe it or not, we have officially been open for a whole month! I am here to tell you a little bit about what we have been doing for the gorillas behind the scenes.

A lot of questions have been asked about how things changed for the animals while the Zoo was closed. To be honest, not much really changed for the gorillas except for the amount of interactions they have with us care team members. As my colleague Allie had mentioned before, gorillas and many other primates can contract many of the same diseases as humans, so keepers are not doing training with the animals unless it is necessary (such as for medical purposes or in the case of emergencies) for the time-being. This has given us extra time to work on other things that enhance the lives of the animals. In the Gorilla Team, we have placed most of our time, energy, and focus on enrichment.

Particularly, our focus has been on those enrichment devices that increase the amount time the gorillas spend foraging, otherwise known as foraging enrichment items. Has anyone seen the gorillas using our raisin boards on habitat? These raisin boards are just square pieces of thick durable plastic with many little holes drilled into it. There is an example of these at the information board in front of Habitats 1 and 2. We fill all the holes with raisins, and the gorillas have to figure out how to get the raisins out. It takes time and creativity! Raisin boards are the just one of many foraging enrichment items.

If you have been to the Zoo since we re-opened, you may have seen big green or brown balls hanging on the rocks and trees on habitat – another foraging enrichment item! They are the newest item in our mix of foraging devices. We call them “hanging boomer balls.” The balls are hollow and once we drill one-inch holes into them, we can fill them with regular diet items such as carrots, turnips, celery, cucumbers and many other vegetables. Much like the raisin boards, the gorillas have to take time to figure out how to get their food out. This mimics what gorillas do in the wild. In the wild, gorillas are constantly searching for food, sometimes getting creative with how they get their food. Just the other day, we witnessed little miss Andi getting really creative. One ball with food in it was hanging from a vine, but it was too far off the ground for her to stand and reach up for it. So, Andi balanced herself on top of the vine to reach down for the ball and get food out. It is amazing to see what these guys will do! It takes a lot of strength and balance for Andi to do that, absolutely incredible!

A wonderful and amazing donor donated all these boomer balls for the gorillas! We are so grateful to have these opportunities that give the animals novel enrichment items, so we want to thank our donor so much for their gracious gift. The gorillas certainly appreciate it too. I hope everyone enjoyed my story about our foraging enrichment items! Thank you for taking the time to read it. Until next time, I hope everyone has a wonderful day and stays safe!

Courtney M.
Keeper I, Primates

Connect With Your Wild Side #onlyzooatl