I have occasionally heard the word “enrichment” defined as items that are given to animals once their basic needs have been met.
In contrast, I think of enrichment as an entire philosophy, not just something extra that we do when our other work is done. For these chimpanzees and all other captive animals, enrichment is a basic need. Although survival would be possible without enrichment, thriving would not. Here at the sanctuary, every aspect of our daily routine, from meal preparation to cleaning, is done with the ultimate goal of keeping the chimpanzees happy and healthy. There is no easy way to group items or activities into “enrichment” or “not enrichment.” We just enrich everything.
In addition to distributing troll dolls, cowboy boots and slinkies, our team designs and builds new structures for the chimpanzees. The way in which we design and furnish the facility is considerate of the chimpanzee’s physical and emotional needs, and we often add or change components of the enclosures to keep the surroundings interesting and functional for the chimps. A great example is the network of firehose “vines” that transects the Playroom, Greenhouse, Hill, and new wing of enclosures. The video posted above shows how Jamie gets to use the firehose however she wants, giving her a greater degree of choice in addition to the obvious security and stability that such additions provide.
We’re also excited to share a photo of a new firehose hammock, modeled by Level III volunteer and CWU graduate student Chad. Several volunteers and interns helped staff and contractors to furnish the chimpanzee areas of the Phase 1 expansion with benches, firehose, hammocks, and ladders. The new hammock is hanging in the upstairs mezzanine enclosure, and will hopefully be enjoyed by the sanctuary’s newest residents once they arrive!