The quality of life of our Biodôme residents means a great deal to us. In addition to the wide range of daily services provided by a team of animal-care experts, preventive screening for health problems is carried out continuously on the animals in our collection. Sanitary maintenance, diet compliance and a vaccination program are some of our best known interventions. But on top of all that, to ensure “intellectual” stimulation for the animals, we adopt a less traditional approach: enrichment.
Enrichment, a tactic for promoting natural behavior in animals
Generally speaking, enrichment is a way of allowing animals to express their natural behaviors. For example, the lynx in the wild will devote a considerable amount of time during the day to hunting, tracking and running before catching its prey. In captivity, catching meat in a bowl takes no time at all! So to complicate things, we might divide the food up into a number of small pieces and hide them in the lynx’s habitat. At other times we may prepare several meals, but place the food in a “container.” The lynx will have to study the situation, make efforts to figure out how to get into this container, and maybe even resort to cracking it open with its claws and teeth before finally gaining access to the food it contains.
The idea behind enrichment is finding the way to make the animal active by stimulating its natural behaviors – by making it work a little. So dexterity in manipulating objects might be the focus, or the stimulation of territorial-marking activities, and sometimes physical effort may be involved. Whether the enrichment is food-related, sensory, social, cognitive, environmental, or calls for manipulation, it must always be tailored to the capabilities of the individual and the species. For instance, in an isolation area for tamarin, vertical branches have been added, a type of perch where the monkey absolutely has to furnish a physical effort to keep its balance – just as it has to in nature.
Halloween for the Biodôme animals
To mark Halloween, the Biodôme is lending a thematic flavor to its enrichments by employing pumpkins. Used as a food variation, container, or object to be manipulated, pumpkins are offered every year at Halloween in the Biodôme habitats. You’re likely to be surprised to see our birds, fish and mammals interacting with the enrichments that our animal-keeper team has prepared. Ask our educators if you’d like more details.