Posts Tagged ‘EnrichBits’

by , Keeper
I am most famous here in the animal department for "expanding" the barred owl exhibit, clogging the wolf pool, and splitting my pants. My other less notorious work, since 2003, includes keeping, purchasing our animal supplies, coordinating our volunteers, and managing our animal enrichment program.
Find me training the lemurs or in other various animal enclosures Monday through Friday, or at the grocery store on Wednesdays, when I shop for produce!

EnrichBits: A game!

February 10th, 2010

EnrichBits: A monthly (ahem)- ok, quarterly, look at animal enrichment.

Sherry found this a long time ago, and it’s a really interesting way to think about enrichment. This is a game to help experiment with what goes into creating an enrichment program.

Below is the scenario; what kind of enrichment plan would you come up with? Leave your suggestions in the comments section and try to remember all your categories of enrichment!

The zoo recently acquired 1.0 Humans (Homo sapiens) weighing 165 lbs. You are Keepers and are experts in the behavior and captive management of humans. You have been asked to develop an enrichment program that meets the captive needs of the Human. This male is currently housed in a 15’x20’x20’ concrete holding cage with chain link fence and a feeding trough. The holding cage is painted white, has a single drain in the back, and a water bowl. The feeding schedule for this animal is two pounds of fruits and vegetables served raw and whole along with two pounds of cooked meats of various kinds served whole. All food is fed out at 0700 when Keepers arrive in the morning. The exhibit is currently under construction for this animal, but in the meantime he is housed in this cage and moved to a shift cage to be cleaned, and then returned to his cage when cleaning is completed.

Take it from there!

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by , Keeper
I am most famous here in the animal department for "expanding" the barred owl exhibit, clogging the wolf pool, and splitting my pants. My other less notorious work, since 2003, includes keeping, purchasing our animal supplies, coordinating our volunteers, and managing our animal enrichment program.
Find me training the lemurs or in other various animal enclosures Monday through Friday, or at the grocery store on Wednesdays, when I shop for produce!

EnrichBits: Training

July 31st, 2009

EnrichBits: A monthly look at animal enrichment

Kristen doing some operant conditioning with the ringtail lemurs

Marilyn mentioned operant conditioning in her latest post about Gus the Bear, so I wanted to explain it a bit further.
You can click here for a technical definition of operant conditioning, but it can really be summed up with one word: “training”. Training is the final big area of all those important enrichment categories (remember?…exhibit design, olfactory, visual, auditory, tactile, social, novel objects, and feeding/foraging).
Most zoos use operant conditioning or training programs to ask their animals to perform cued behaviors that help with husbandry, veterinary procedures, and enrichment. For example, I might train a lemur to enter a carrier or crate voluntarily. We use carriers to transfer lemurs from the lemur house to our veterinary exam room in the main museum building. Often, this means chasing and netting the lemur, struggling to get it into the carrier, and creating an unhappy, lengthy (and usually messy!) situation for everyone involved. A lemur’s voluntary crate entry lessens stress and increases efficiency, but also includes a teaching process that is outstanding enrichment, as it requires regular interaction, thought and challenge, novelty, and change. The animal is both mentally and physically stimulated during every training session.

In concept, training is a simple procedure: when the animal does a behavior you want, apply reinforcement (in our case, it’s usually a food treat). In practice, it’s much more nuanced and requires education, learning the motivations and limits of your animals, clear communication, and the daily work of very small steps! Our training program here at the museum is young, and we are guided by a training expert, Julie Grimes, who also works with the keepers at the NC Zoo. We are learning and growing every day, and so are our animals!

Gus the bear is being trained to touch his nose to a target, to present his paws so that our vet can see them, to come into our bear house when asked and to step on the scale– and not move!– so that we can get weights on him quickly and accurately. These are just beginning steps of course; eventually he will be able to voluntarily take an injection into the arm or hip, to open his mouth to get his teeth brushed, and to station at different locations in the exhibit.

It’s really enriching work– for both the animals and keepers!

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by , Keeper
I am most famous here in the animal department for "expanding" the barred owl exhibit, clogging the wolf pool, and splitting my pants. My other less notorious work, since 2003, includes keeping, purchasing our animal supplies, coordinating our volunteers, and managing our animal enrichment program.
Find me training the lemurs or in other various animal enclosures Monday through Friday, or at the grocery store on Wednesdays, when I shop for produce!

EnrichBits: Keepers’ favorites

June 17th, 2009

EnrichBits: A monthly look at animal enrichment

This month, we thought it’d be fun to ask around and see what the keepers enjoy best in terms of animal enrichment. “What’s your favorite enrichment to watch or give?” got these responses:

Marilyn: I really like when the bears get a box-in-a-box-in-a-box. (This is where we hide a yummy treat in a box, put that box in a bigger box, and that box in a bigger box, in order to create a bunch of layers to tear through and prolong the puzzle) Especially when popcorn’s the treat, and they’ll tear through, popcorn goes flying, and usually a bear ends up with a box on it’s head!

Kent: It’s pretty cool when we give the bears those big ice chunks in the moat and they play with them.

Erin: I like to watch how intelligent our pig is when we give him a treat in a pizza box. He can pop it open perfectly with no hands!

Cassidy: I really like to give browse ( leaves from trees) to the sheep because they get so excited. They fling their heads around and act silly. The other day, instead of putting their food in the bowls, I spread it out all over the yard, and then moved on to clean pig’s yard. When I glanced over, the sheep had found and eaten it all, and then were running around their yard head butting and acting frisky. I was pleasantly shocked!

Kristen: One of my favorites is to watch the turtles when they choose to bask under their heat lamps. I always laugh when they stretch out their back legs for maximum skin surface area getting warm.

Jill: Anything where the animals get to tear stuff up. I don’t like to clean up ripped up phone books and cardboard boxes afterwards though!

Sherry: I like to watch the bears do most anything, like leafing through piles of fresh cut tree limbs, or trying to reach sweet treats like drops of syrup and honey that have been placed high. They always try to get more than the one drop that’s coming out of our honey drippers (honey drippers are capped PVC tubes with a small hole in the bottom. Once hung from a height, they’ll slowly drip honey, so bears have to keep coming back and checking in to see if a treat awaits them)

You’ve heard some keeper favorites. What’s yours?

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  1. I used to have a Yellow-Bellied Slider and referred to that position as 'the Superman.'

    Posted by Beck
  2. I enjoyed watching two bears up in the mulberry tree last year, swaying back and forth in that little tree, cuffing each other while munching out on the mulberries!

    Posted by Wendy A

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by , Keeper
I am most famous here in the animal department for "expanding" the barred owl exhibit, clogging the wolf pool, and splitting my pants. My other less notorious work, since 2003, includes keeping, purchasing our animal supplies, coordinating our volunteers, and managing our animal enrichment program.
Find me training the lemurs or in other various animal enclosures Monday through Friday, or at the grocery store on Wednesdays, when I shop for produce!

EnrichBits: Wolves

April 20th, 2009

EnrichBits: A monthly look at animal enrichment Our red wolves, who are shy by nature, don’t tend to be real playful in front of large, loud groups. If you catch them one on one, towards the earlier part of the morning, you can see them moving around. Here, Keeper Katy caught them really moving. Their exhibit, designed with a lot of hilly topography and natural elements, challenges them as a wild landscape would, and is long enough side to side to allow them to reach a natural chase speed!

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by , Keeper
I am most famous here in the animal department for "expanding" the barred owl exhibit, clogging the wolf pool, and splitting my pants. My other less notorious work, since 2003, includes keeping, purchasing our animal supplies, coordinating our volunteers, and managing our animal enrichment program.
Find me training the lemurs or in other various animal enclosures Monday through Friday, or at the grocery store on Wednesdays, when I shop for produce!

EnrichBits: Max’s Monday out– part two

February 21st, 2009
EnrichBits: A monthly look at animal enrichment
In the last EnrichBits post, I showed Max, our steer, getting some time outside his stall and yard on a day we were closed to vistors. He got to experience many new and enriching sights, sounds, and smells while he checked out Loblolly Park (our playground). The goal is to provide new and exciting without crossing the line into stressful, so we had quite a few animal department staff out there to help if things went awry.
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As excited as Max was, he was back on a lead easily. It’s hard not to project your feelings onto animals, but as I watched this last part, I could only hope that Max was thinking “That was cool!” as he and volunteer Mike walk off into the sunset!!
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by , Keeper
I am most famous here in the animal department for "expanding" the barred owl exhibit, clogging the wolf pool, and splitting my pants. My other less notorious work, since 2003, includes keeping, purchasing our animal supplies, coordinating our volunteers, and managing our animal enrichment program.
Find me training the lemurs or in other various animal enclosures Monday through Friday, or at the grocery store on Wednesdays, when I shop for produce!

EnrichBits: Max’s Monday out

January 23rd, 2009

EnrichBits: A monthly look at animal enrichment

Occasionally, we’ll get the chance as animal keepers to see our animals react emphatically to a completely different change of routine and surroundings. Over the fall, the Museum was closed to visitors on Mondays, so we used this no-people-on-museum-grounds opportunity to give Max, our Jersey steer, some (unleashed) time out of his exhibit yard. We had never done enrichment like this before, and weren’t sure how Max would react. He is a big animal ( about 700 pounds at the time of this video) and we decided we’d need all the keepers working that day up in the farmyard to help out. During the video, you can see Sherry and volunteer Mike test out a halter grab– which doesn’t look easy, but turned out to be so when we wanted to put Max back on his lead and take him back to his yard.

Anyway, in the video, you can see how just one different thing can really capture an animal’s attention (in this case, a tree!).

Check in for February’s EnrichBits post to see Max start running around!

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  1. He likes his tree! It reminds me of a story I used to read when I was little called Ferdinand the Bull. You guys should check it out.

    Posted by ErinH

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by , Keeper
I am most famous here in the animal department for "expanding" the barred owl exhibit, clogging the wolf pool, and splitting my pants. My other less notorious work, since 2003, includes keeping, purchasing our animal supplies, coordinating our volunteers, and managing our animal enrichment program.
Find me training the lemurs or in other various animal enclosures Monday through Friday, or at the grocery store on Wednesdays, when I shop for produce!

EnrichBits: The Office

December 18th, 2008

EnrichBits: A monthly look at animal enrichment

So, I was up on the 3rd floor of the museum the other day, where all of our accounting and business operations people work. As I’m walking through, I spot some old office accordion folders in their recycle bin. I grabbed as many as I could carry downstairs; they had to be good for some kind of enrichment! I decided the bears might like to tear them up while looking for bits of food within the “bellows”.

A keeper always has to be on the lookout for random materials ( better if they are reused!) that might make a neat toy or puzzle for one of our animals. Of course, you have to make sure it’s something that’s been approved by our vet, (our bears can have cardboard and paper to rip up) and you have to use some common sense—are there tape or staples that need to be pulled out? Could anyone get their head stuck? What if they ingested a little? Should it not be something with food on it? Do we have enough to go around, or could the bears potentially fight over it?

These accordion folders got the pass, and even though we are well into the cold months where the bears aren’t all that active here’s how it went:

Set up in the yard:

Gus gets to them first:

Even though bears aren’t that hungry (tis the season to leave undesirable foods like carrot), it is still interesting to tear things up!

Thanks to Debbie, Pam, Åsa, and Laura for some good recycled enrichment!

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by , Keeper
I am most famous here in the animal department for "expanding" the barred owl exhibit, clogging the wolf pool, and splitting my pants. My other less notorious work, since 2003, includes keeping, purchasing our animal supplies, coordinating our volunteers, and managing our animal enrichment program.
Find me training the lemurs or in other various animal enclosures Monday through Friday, or at the grocery store on Wednesdays, when I shop for produce!

EnrichBits: Keeper Enrichment

November 21st, 2008

EnrichBits: A monthly look at animal enrichment

Ok, enough about animal enrichment. It’s time to talk about keeper enrichment!! The idea is the same– animal keepers with choice and changes in their routines are happier creatures! Sherry gives all of us keepers opportunities to change up our routines now and again by giving us the chance to get off museum grounds (or at least out of the animal department area) and do something a little different.
Jill, Katy, Erin, and Cassidy got to visit the Carolina Raptor Center a few months ago to learn more about birds of prey. Kent often will get out of his routine by helping with various projects like the Gecko Naming Contest that we participated in. Marilyn has traveled to pick up and drop off animals to places like the Sylvan Heights Waterfowl Park (to pick up ducks) and Alligator River (to drop off our brother wolves). Larry researched enrichment at the Virgina Living Museum. Cassidy and I were enriched keepers most recently, when we went to pick up our new female wolf at the RDU airport– she flew in from Texas. Check out the video that our Director of Nano Education and Munch Cam producer, Brad, made of us picking her up.
Getting the chance to do different and unusual things in your job keeps things interesting and fun!

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  1. I really enjoyed the video!!

    Posted by Marilyn
  2. Awesome video!

    Posted by Jill
  3. Who won the game of mini cards? Great video!

    Posted by Erin Brown

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by , Keeper
I am most famous here in the animal department for "expanding" the barred owl exhibit, clogging the wolf pool, and splitting my pants. My other less notorious work, since 2003, includes keeping, purchasing our animal supplies, coordinating our volunteers, and managing our animal enrichment program.
Find me training the lemurs or in other various animal enclosures Monday through Friday, or at the grocery store on Wednesdays, when I shop for produce!

EnrichBits: A new toy

October 20th, 2008

EnrichBits: A monthly look at Animal Enrichment

Our newest bear enrichment toy comes from the people at Boomer Ball. It’s made for polar bears, I think, but we thought we’d see how our Black Bears took to it. Remember as you watch this terribly suspenseful video, that it’s really enriching for the animal when they have to think about things and make choices! And the longer they stay interested, the better the enrichment!

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  1. It was very funny when a giant square of plastic that neither opened nor contained anything arrived without any prior explanation on a day when the two people who would know about it were gone. Luckily Cassidy figured it out before we got too freaked out, but there was a good half an hour when we were all scratching our heads wondering if we were getting pranked.

    Posted by Erin Brown
  2. Which means it served as enrichment for the keepers, as well as the truck delivery guy!!

    Posted by Marilyn
  3. I love hearing the snickering from the camera person! he he. more video! I love watching my dog when she tries to figure out stuff. You can watch them think!

    Posted by Anonymous

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by , Keeper
I am most famous here in the animal department for "expanding" the barred owl exhibit, clogging the wolf pool, and splitting my pants. My other less notorious work, since 2003, includes keeping, purchasing our animal supplies, coordinating our volunteers, and managing our animal enrichment program.
Find me training the lemurs or in other various animal enclosures Monday through Friday, or at the grocery store on Wednesdays, when I shop for produce!

EnrichBits: Wild About Animals!

September 20th, 2008

EnrichBits: A monthly look at animal enrichment

If you’ve been enjoying learning about animal enrichment from these EnrichBits posts, you’ll definitely want to mark your calendars to come out to the Museum on Saturday, October 11 for our Wild About Animals event. Besides all the great activities focusing on our museum animals (meeting our farmyard veterinarian, reptile programs, behind the scenes tours, animal first aid, Hawk Talks and much more), we’ll be focusing on all things ENRICHMENT at Bear Overlook. You’ll be able to see and touch many of the toys we use for the bears (and check out the claw and tooth marks in them!) and help make them a fire hose hammock. Hiding food in pine cones and making the bears hunt around for them in the yard is really enriching for them, so you’ll be able to help make peanut butter and birdseed pine cones for the bears. We’ll also have a station where you have to test your nose against a bear’s nose. We use a lot of scents to help make their environment more interesting. The bears can smell scents from miles away, but can you identify some common scents even when they are right under your nose?

Check out Wild About Animals Day in more detail. Hope to see you there!

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