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Enrichment isn’t just fun, it’s serious work!

Categories: Animals, Support the Zoo

Dear Friend of the Sacramento Zoo,


meerkat in an enrichment tubeAt the Sacramento Zoo, animal care and welfare are our top priorities. That care comes in a variety of forms – each as vitally important as the next in ensuring that every animal at the zoo is healthy, engaged, and stimulated.

In addition to healthy balanced diets, compassionate daily care, and regular veterinary care, the animals at the Sac Zoo also receive a variety of unique enrichment opportunities designed to create novel experiences that encourage species-appropriate behaviors and stimulate the various senses.

With your generous support, our dedicated keepers, veterinary team, and others can continue to provide each and every animal with exceptional care from organic produce and restaurant-grade meats to annual veterinary wellness exams and creative enrichment in its many forms.

Animal enrichment is typically divided into five categories: physical, sensory, cognitive, social, and food; and often crosses over to incorporate more than one category depending on presentation. Regardless of its desired behavioral outcome, enrichment adds an important depth to the care received by the animals at the Sac Zoo.

kamau the lion with snowEnrichment is regulated by two organizations, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). As an AZA-accredited institution, the Sac Zoo is held to the highest standards of animal care, and these standards are always evolving based on the current research and knowledge of animal care worldwide. As a result, our animal care team is constantly working to improve our enrichment program and to incorporate both science and creativity when it comes to designing enrichment experiences to enhance the lives of the animals in our care.

Your support helps ensure that we can continue to evolve and excel in the care that we provide to every animal that calls the Sac Zoo home. Won’t you make a generous year-end gift today that will help us to feed, care for and enrich the lives of the more than 400 animals in our care?

Regardless of an animal’s age or species, enrichment helps satisfy an animal’s physical and psychological needs and allows them to make choices and to problem-solve. When young animals are beginning to develop social and physical skills and are exploring a new environment, various enrichment opportunities help them meet development milestones and start learning about foraging, climbing, scent marking, problem solving, and more. For many animals the instinct to engage in species-specific behavior comes naturally, but actually mastering something like climbing takes practice, determination, and muscle development. That’s where enrichment can come in.

pair of red pandsRed panda cubs do not leave their nest box for the first three-months of life. And while they begin to gain strength and coordination while still nesting with mom, once they are ready to explore beyond their nest box, they do so slowly and cautiously. It is then that keepers step in to provide appropriate limbs, platforms, and other enrichment for the young cubs to explore while they perfect their climbing skills. And as with any young animal, a cub’s curiosity can also be tiring for mom, so creative enrichment also helps to occupy the cubs while mom takes a short nap.

Through the implementation of various forms of enrichment, animals are encouraged to experiment with new smells, tastes, textures, and even puzzles that involve cognitive challenges.

Our lion pair, Cleo and Kamau, might enjoy sniffing, eating, and rolling in scented or flavored ice cubes. Primates seem to enjoy various puzzle feeders. For our meerkat mob, it might be a scented tube that they can crawl through in search of crickets.

Enrichment, in its many forms, is just one critical element in the multi-faceted and ever evolving effort to provide each and every animal at the Sacramento Zoo with the exceptional daily care that they need to thrive. And with your help this holiday season, we will ensure that every animal in our care continues to receive healthy meals, compassionate care, world-class veterinary treatment, and stimulating enrichment.

Thank you for your support and friendship. Wishing you and yours a healthy, happy holiday season and new year.

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Jason Jacobs


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See enrichment in action with our meerkats on our YouTube channel!

Want to learn more about enrichment? Check out this post about Animal Enrichment Day!

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