Enrichment for Big Cats
An important part of animal management in human care allowing them to act out natural species behaviour
There are many forms of enrichment including habitat, sensory, food and non-food enrichments. At our big cat sanctuaries, LIONSROCK Big Cat Sanctuary, FELIDA Big Cat Sanctuary and TIERART Wild Animal Sanctuary we focus on environmental and behavioural enrichments. The large enclosures incorporate the natural landscape, providing their residents with opportunities to climb, roam, run and explore the different scents and textures that they may have encountered in the wild. All our tiger enclosures are fitted with pools, allowing them to cool off or play when desired. Non-food or toy enrichments are placed into enclosures, to encourage manipulation and playing while providing them with new and exciting smells and activities. The boomer balls and hessian rolls infused with their preferred spices or scents are good examples. Animal caretakers also place scent trails within the enclosures, while our creative volunteers build paper mâché 'animals' to entice the hunting instincts out of our big cats. It can, however, be as simple as changing where the animal’s food is placed.
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To watch them playing with the enrichment is not only enjoyable for the observer but essential to allow for improvements in the future and to ensure the safety and well-being of our animals. This should always be at the forefront, from the creation of devices to the method of implementation. All materials need to be biodegradable, digestible and non-toxic and should not pose any threat to the animal.
In the end, enrichment gives our animals the opportunity to engage mentally and physically, in a healthy and safe manner that encourages them to be the big cats that they were born to be, albeit in a captive situation.
- Social – interaction with conspecifics
- Species appropriate enclosures – opportunity to hide, climb, swim, shade
- Long-term, fixed structures – require resources such as manpower, machinery, money, expertise
- Sensory enrichments (olfactory, visual, auditory)
- Toys/non-food enrichments
- New and varied types of food enrichments