February 20, 2020

What is animal enrichment?

The Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium provides the best care possible for all of our animals. An important part of that care includes enrichment. Enrichment is an opportunity for the animals to experience something new and different and to stimulate their senses and natural behaviors.

Enrichment can occur in many different forms such as environmental, social, and sensory, and can incorporate different items like new toys and food.

Cat Enrichment
Our cat family of Amur tigers, Amur leopards, and cheetahs really like the smell of perfume and cologne. The keepers over the years collected different perfumes and colognes to see which ones the cats reacted to. It was unanimous – the cats’ favorite scent is Calvin Klein!

The keepers spray the hay in their habitat, and will sometimes fill cardboard boxes with shredded paper and spray the paper. The cats will roll around in the hay, stick their noses into the cardboard boxes, and pull out the shredded paper, and play with their toys.

Elephant Enrichment
Elephants like to receive enrichment too! At the Zoo’s International Conservation Center (ICC), the elephants receive monthly enrichment with help from the Ready Steps Preschool and Country Kids Day Care.

Our keepers met with the classes to talk about enrichment and also teach the students about the elephants.

The students bring big boxes that they’ve painted with bright colors, and the keepers fill them with treats for the elephants like potatoes, carrots, oranges, apples, and sometimes even put in peanuts, a pumpkin, or watermelon.

Each elephant reacts differently to the enrichment. One may hurry up and empty the box to get the treats inside, another elephant may use her trunk to dig down in the find what is inside.

The class made Valentine’s Day boxes this year. Check out the photos and video of the elephants enjoying their enrichment!