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Animal Enrichments

Animal enrichment is the practice of providing stimulating environments and experiences for Zoo animals in order for them to demonstrate behaviors natural to their species, to allow them more control over their environment, and to enhance their well-being.

Click here to view a printable wish list (PDF).

What is the purpose of Animal Enrichment?

No one likes getting into a rut doing the same things over and over again and we now know that animals don’t either. In the wild, animals encounter many challenges in their day to day life. In Zoos, there is no need to hunt, forage for food, and to protect themselves from predators, so to prevent boredom, Zookeepers (both at John Ball Zoo and Zoos around the world) must be very clever about finding ways to keep their animals’ instincts sharp and their senses stimulated. This practice of animal care is called “animal enrichment”.

John Ball Zoo has a detailed, daily, enrichment plan in place for most of the 2,000 animals in their care. Sometimes it’s a tried-and-true method, such as peanut butter stuffed inside a coconut. At other times it’s experimental. One of the chimp keepers at John Ball Zoo gave the chimps a pillow case. The smallest one put it on her head – ghost style – and ran around chasing the other chimps. The results of these kinds of experiments will be shared with other zookeepers in the animal care community. Special smells, unique tastes, bizarre textures all make for good enrichment. Just like with our pets at home, zookeepers learn their animals’ preferences.

How you can help

Once or twice a year, John Ball Zookeepers ask our visitors and supporters to help collect the many, many enrichment items needed to care for the Zoo’s animals. Enrichment is expensive, especially durable toys. Where a Kong toy might last a few months for a German shepherd, it’s a one day toy for the chimps.

Christmas For the Animals is our biggest annual enrichment drive. It usually takes place in early December; the exact date can be found on the event calendar. On this day, admission is waved for all visitors that donate enrichment items.

Enrichment donations are appreciated throughout the year. These items can be delivered to the admission booths during regular zoo hours. Questions regarding enrichments donations can be directed to Krys at (616)336-4374.