Taking care of chimpanzees is more than cleaning enclosures and serving them meals. There’s a lot more that goes into it. We also ensure the chimpanzees are well mentally. This is usually through the form of enrichment. Enrichment is a way to provide mental stimulation and promote natural behaviors. In layman’s terms, enrichment is a way to try to curb boredom. When animals become bored, some abnormal or stressed-related behaviors can start to develop.
Here, we try very hard to keep all 16 residents enriched to the best of our abilities. But what does that look like? Traditionally in the animal care field, enrichment comes in a few staple categories:
- Physical Habitat
Cognitive enrichment is the form of enrichment you have seen here many times. These are the food puzzles the chimpanzees get throughout the day. These are the toys some interact with. This is a way for the chimpanzees problem solve and give them a level of control of their environment. With the food puzzles, its a way to problem solve a situation in order to achieve the reward.
Physical Habitat is the how the enclosure is set up. Not only should an enclosure probably look visible appealing for the chimpanzees, but it should be functional as well. Young’s Hill has a plethora of structures the chimpanzees can climb, swing, and sit on to look out on to the surrounding areas. In the indoor enclosures, firehose is a great addition to their physical habitat.
In the two new playrooms and greenhouses currently occupied by Willy B’s group and Cy’s group, there are two artificial trees the chimpanzees can climb up and relax on their platforms.
Social enrichment is the relationship the chimpanzees have with others, chimpanzees and humans. It can be enriching to interact with a chimpanzee from another group, even if it is just through the window.
As you know, we have been in the process of integrating Cy and Willy B’s group into one. Though these times can be stressful, seeing some of the chimpanzees come together and form bonds is the most heartwarming feeling a caregiver can get.
Food can be exciting and enriching, but food on it’s own is just something you eat to satisfy an empty belly. What can make food more enriching is introducing new foods or presenting it in new ways. We are continuously trying to find new foods to introduce to the chimpanzees. We also try to present the food in different ways. Besides hand serving we also set up forages. Typically when the weather is nice, we set up forages on Young’s Hill. This promotes a chimpanzee’s natural behavior to move around and search for their food.
Another type of forage presented in an exciting way is the parties we throw.
Sensory enrichment includes those which allow the chimpanzees to utilize their sense of touch, smell, auditory, and vision. We try to provide them with novel ways to utilize these senses.
As some know, Willy B loves screen time. This is one way we provide him with both a visual and auditory enrichment.
Is everything we do a hit? No. Is what is good for one group good for the other? No. Do we continuously try to find ways to ensure every chimpanzee is enriched based on their personal preference and likes? Absolutely! Though this can be a very challenging task to cater enrichment for 16 very different personalities and likes, it is absolutely worth it. It is part of the job I personally love.
Here are some bonus photos I took of Rayne today: