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What is Enrichment

Enrichments create opportunities to use natural senses and adaptations to improve animal well-being. Enrichment is all about enhancing animal environments appropriate to specific species. Daily enrichment is a requirement for all AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums, including the Edmonton Valley Zoo.

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Types of Enrichment

At the Edmonton Valley Zoo, animal enrichment is an important part of day-to-day animal care. The Zoo staff use five categories of enrichment: food enrichment, physical enrichment, sensory enrichment, cognitive enrichment and social enrichment. These types of enrichment are not mutually exclusive and often overlap. Lets take a closer look at each type.

Food Enrichment

The Edmonton Valley Zoo applies food enrichment in a wide variety of ways. Enrichments might engage hunting or foraging - natural behaviours in some animals. Food enrichment also encourages problem-solving. Food is often hidden, buried or placed differently in animal enclosures, so the animals must follow their senses to the food.

Physical Enrichment

The Zoo staff work hard to change the animal's physical environment everyday, ensuring the habitats are interesting and engaging for the animals. Objects in the enclosures may be moved or changed; perching branches might be rearranged; new objects may be introduced or even hidden.

Sensory Enrichment 

Animal senses (taste, smell, sound, sight and touch) are enhanced with different methods. Sensory enrichment is quite varied and may engage many senses at once. For example, the Edmonton Valley Zoo has a music and art program for animals, where Lucy the elephant loves to paint and play the drums.

Olfactory enrichment (smell)
Prey scents, new scents, spices, or perfumes may be used to engage the sense of smell. 

Auditory enrichment (sound)
Devices are used in some of our animal enclosures to omit natural sound recordings or animal vocalizations. 

Visual enrichment (sight) 
Various colours, videos and mirrors are used to engage the animals. 

Tactile enrichment (touch)
Textured materials, such as papier-mache, soft items or wood may be placed in enclosures to engage the sense of touch.

Cognitive Enrichment

Cognitive enrichment stimulates the animal thought process and conditions the brain in new ways. Things like puzzle feeders and problem solving activities are used for cognitive enrichment. 

Social Enrichment

The Zookeepers are always thinking of new creative ways to enrich an animals day through behaviour training or socialization. Some animals are tractable, so the keepers are able to take them out to socialize with visitors.

How You Can Help

Help ensure animals are "tuned" into the world around them through animal enrichment.
  • Make a donation to the Valley Zoo Development Society. Donations to the Adopt an Animal Program go towards enrichment.
  • Encourage your school to support the Music Enrichment Program. We are currently looking for donations of new or used musical instruments. Some of the instruments our animals enjoy are drums, recorders and xylophones. Donations are accepted at the Administration Building in the Saito Centre.
  • Donate building materials and spices to help build enrichments. Donations are accepted at the Administration Building in the Saito Centre.

For More Information

Edmonton Valley Zoo

13315 Buena Vista Road (87th Avenue)
PO Box 2359
Edmonton, Alberta T5J 2R7

Telephone In Edmonton: 311
Outside Edmonton: 780-442-5311
Email attractions@edmonton.ca

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