Uncategorized

enrichment

1

Yummy Honey for a Bear’s Tummy! Andean Bear Chows Down on Delicious Honeycomb at the San Diego Zoo

Turbo, an Andean bear, enjoyed a special treat—honeycomb harvested from a hive on the edge of Zoo grounds.

Turbo, an Andean bear, enjoys a special treat—honeycomb harvested from a hive discovered on the Zoo grounds.

Turbo, an Andean bear at the San Diego Zoo received a special treat this morning. The energetic and curious bear entered his habitat to find several pieces of honeycombs filled with delicious honey. Each piece was strategically placed around his enclosure, so Turbo had to do a little bit of work to get to them. Crowds watched as he climbed, crawled and pulled to get a taste of the sweet treats. After a few minutes of eating, he took a break to walk around and explore his enclosure. Animal care staff says he will continue to go back and eat the honey throughout the day.

“We strive to match our animals’ natural ability to an appropriate challenge,” said Jessica Sheftel, Animal Care Supervisor for Enrichment. “We don’t want it to be too easy or too frustrating, but sometimes it can take multiple days for an animal to problem solve a situation. If, however, it does prove to be a little difficult, we can take a step back and then begin to approximate and increase the challenge.”

The honey is used as an enrichment option, which is important for bears at the Zoo. The honey, as well as the process of getting to each honeycomb piece, keeps him stimulated and active, and allows him to show natural behaviors.

The honeycomb pieces were harvested from a 12-foot hive that was found inside a sound barrier on the edge of Zoo grounds. The Zoo’s Entomology team spent a whole day removing the extensive hive and preparing the bees for their new home with a local beekeeper. The process of removing the hive and safely relocating the bees is a part of San Diego Zoo’s commitment to conservation.

“Pollinators are in decline globally, and we are committed to their conservation here at the San Diego Zoo,” said Paige Howorth, animal care manager for invertebrates. “We have a pollinator garden to attract native bees and butterflies, and a monarch butterfly habitat to encourage monarch reproduction. Honey bees are important pollinators too, so whenever we encounter a swarm or colony in a questionable place on grounds, we do our best to relocate it.”

Andean bears come from the Andean countries of South America. They are commonly known as spectacled bears because of the rings of white or light fur around their eyes. Their populations are vulnerable to extinction, due to poaching and habitat loss. Those who want to help San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy lead the fight against extinction can find out how by visiting endextinction.org.

Bringing species back from the brink of extinction is the goal of San Diego Zoo Global. As a leader in conservation, the work of San Diego Zoo Global includes on-site wildlife conservation efforts (representing both plants and animals) at the San Diego Zoo, San Diego Zoo Safari Park, and San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, as well as international field programs on six continents. The work of these entities is inspiring children through the San Diego Zoo Kids network, reaching out through the Internet and in children’s hospitals nationwide. The work of San Diego Zoo Global is made possible by the San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy and is supported in part by the Foundation of San Diego Zoo Global.

Photo taken on September 10, 2015 by Ken Bohn, San Diego Zoo

CONTACT: SAN DIEGO ZOO GLOBAL PUBLIC RELATIONS, 619-685-3291
10

Summer Pool Party – Animal Style

Summer is in full swing and you know what that means–pool parties! And not just for us; many animals also enjoy the life aquatic. Enjoy this roundup of animals who take to water like moths to flame.

Hippos

Hippos are water fiends. They’re actually adapted for life in the water and are found living in slow-moving rivers and lakes in Africa. With their eyes, ears, and nostrils on the top of the head, hippos can hear, see, and breathe while most of their body is underwater.

Elephants

Our behemoth pachyderm friends also don’t hate water. Elephants often spray themselves with water or roll in the mud or dust for protection from the sun and biting insects. They can also use their trunks as periscopes to breathe underwater, which is quite possibly one of the coolest adaptations ever.

Polar Bears

Polar bears practically live a perpetual pool party. The taxonomic name for polar bears is Ursus maritimus, which means sea bear, a fitting name for these champion swimmers. They have been known to swim more than 60 miles without rest in search of food, using their broad front feet for paddling and their back legs like rudders to steer.

A #polarbear can swim for up to 12 days & up to 426 miles. #regram #animals #nature #sandiegozoo

A photo posted by San Diego Zoo (@sandiegozoo) on

Jaguars

Jaguars would show you up at any pool party with their swimming prowess, helped along by super muscular limbs and large paws to paddle with. In fact, they typically live near water and have a taste for aquatic creatures. Jaguars have even been observed sitting quietly at the water’s edge, occasionally tapping the surface with their tail to attract fish.

Otters

Otters are the only species in the weasel family that enjoys constant pool parties. They spend most of their lives in water, and they’re built for it. Their streamlined bodies are perfect for diving and swimming. They also have webbed feet and can close off their ears and nose as they swim underwater. Otters can also see just as well underwater as they can above, and can stay submerged for five to eight minutes.

Penguins

Most birds are masters of the skies, but penguins prefer the sea. Penguins are fast swimmers allowing them to catch a variety of prey including sardines and anchovies, as well as squid and crustaceans.

Tigers

Much like jaguars, tigers don’t shy away from a good dip in the water. Excellent and powerful swimmers, tigers are often found during the day relaxing or waiting to ambush prey in ponds, streams, and rivers.

Gharials

Gharials, like all crocodilians, are born knowing how to swim. As they grow older they become incredibly agile swimmers, moving through the water with ease by using their powerful, oar-like tails and strongly-webbed hind feet.

Photo by Bob Worthington

Photo by Bob Worthington

 

Can you think of any other animals who love water? Let us know in the comments.

 

Matt Steele is senior social media planner for San Diego Zoo Global. Read his previous post, Myths About Rhino Horn That Need To Go Away.

27

A Little Switch

caption

A change of scenery will be enriching for active, curious Xiao Liwu.

On Friday our keepers decided to switch it up a bit for our panda bears (and for a particular tree); Xiao Liwu was moved into the first enclosure and Gao Gao moved to the “Keebler” side. This change of environment is nothing new to our bears (we do this every few months), and is a chance for guests and Panda Cam viewers to see some interesting behavior as the pandas get reacquainted with their new spot. Giant pandas are very good at scenting their territory, and when we are able to play “musical bears” we give them the chance to re-mark territory and exhibit some of those behaviors: scent marking in a handstand position as well as rubbing on trees and even on the ground. Not only is this fun for our guests to observe, it is a good behavior for our bears to express. Changing locations is a novel enrichment experience for the pandas.

The switch last week also gave our staff a chance to check out the little elm tree that Mr. Wu was exposing. For those of you who haven’t seen that particular enclosure over the years, it has gone through a few trees in its day. The first tree in the exhibit was knocked over by Su Lin, born in 2005. Luckily, nothing was damaged and we were able to secure her and the tree so that she could continue to use it as a climbing structure. We were then gifted with a young elm tree that Yun Zi (born 2009) tore apart during one of his many energy bursts. Shortly after that, we acquired the elm currently in the exhibit. We did our best to secure it so that the tree might stand a chance against a young, rowdy bear. So yesterday when our keepers discovered that little Mr. Wu had torn the plastic covering off the elm, they moved Gao Gao into the exhibit knowing that he probably wouldn’t destroy the tree.

Over the past ten years, I’ve watched cubs go through the many stages of adolescence, and they can be very destructive. The cubs learn how strong they are and like to test boundaries. And never forget how smart bears are and how curious they can be. As keepers, our job is to make sure that these bears go through these stages safely. For our researchers, this is a busy time watching and noting the many changes going on with our bears. This can often be fun for the observers as they watch the bears be a little silly and try out their abilities.

So while our staff does their best to restore the tree’s protective covering, enjoy watching the bears in a new—yet familiar—environment. Also keep an eye out for some smelling behaviors; after every storm I think we get some of the most fascinating behaviors from all of our animals as they investigate all the new smells kicked into the air.

Anastasia Jonilionis is a panda narrator and keeper at the San Diego Zoo. Read her previous blog, Thunder and Lightning.

Monitor’s note: We have recently updated our Blog Comment Policy. We ask that comments stay focused on the topic of the blog or what you observe on Panda Cam rather than animals or events at other institutions. Thank you!

0

African Serval Kittens and Mother Play, Pounce at the San Diego Zoo

caption

A male two-month-old African serval kitten plays with one of his new enrihment items at the San Diego Zoo this morning.

Three African servals were doing what cats do best this morning at the San Diego Zoo—pouncing, digging, hunting and sleeping. The mother, Onshe, and her two cubs (who have not yet been named) received their daily enrichment, with a few extra treats thrown in. In addition to new piles of mulch, the cats were given carved, painted gourds covered with different scents from food seasonings. They were also given a few pinecones filled with paper and skin shed from a snake. The enrichment items, created by the Zoo’s “Epic Teen” summer camp participants, were designed to encourage the animals’ natural foraging and investigative behaviors.

The male and female servals were born on May 13. While they’re the same size and weight, keepers are able to tell them apart by the pink spot on the male kitten’s nose—the female’s nose is solid black. The serval kittens are still being nursed by their mom, but they are starting to try solid food, when their mother shares her carnivore diet with them. As they mature, they are becoming more adventurous—and are venturing farther and higher from their mother in the exhibit, as they test their ability to climb and jump. Guests visiting the San Diego Zoo can find the trio of servals in the Rock Kopje area on Front Street.

The San Diego Zoo is hosting Nighttime Zoo, presented by Cymer, now through Labor Day, Sept. 7. During this special event, guests can stay in the Zoo until 9 p.m. and experience toe-tapping, body-moving music in a variety of sounds and styles throughout the afternoon and evening—including rock tunes through the decades, festive mariachi melodies, a brass band and even a cappella harmonies. The Zoo has also added a 15,500-square-foot exhibit for Asian leopards that is the new entrance to the Barlin-Kahn Family Panda Trek. All Nighttime Zoo activities and entertainment are included with admission to the San Diego Zoo.

Bringing species back from the brink of extinction is the goal of San Diego Zoo Global. As a leader in conservation, the work of San Diego Zoo Global includes onsite wildlife conservation efforts (representing both plants and animals) at the San Diego Zoo, the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, and San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, as well as international field programs on six continents. The work of these entities is inspiring children through the San Diego Zoo Kids network, reaching out through the Internet and in children’s hospitals nationwide. The work of San Diego Zoo Global is made possible by the San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy and is supported in part by the Foundation of San Diego Zoo Global.

Photo taken on July 17, 2015 by Ken Bohn, San Diego Zoo

CONTACT: SAN DIEGO ZOO GLOBAL PUBLIC RELATIONS, 619-685-3291

0

Birthday Cake for Breakfast: Cheetah Cubs at San Diego Zoo Safari Park Turn One

caption

Male cheetah cub Wgasa (left) and female cub Pumzika (right) enjoy a special birthday cake in celebration of their first birthday at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

Four cheetah cubs at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park turned one year old today and received specially made birthday cakes for breakfast, in celebration. Members of the Safari Park’s nutritional services team made the four individual ice cakes and placed them in the exhibit the cubs share with their mother, Addison. The cakes were made with the cheetahs’ favorite food items: blood, chicken broth, ground meat, and chunked meat, drizzled with more blood for good measure.

The cubs were a little hesitant to try their birthday treats, since this was their first time seeing ice cake. However, following their mother’s lead, they soon gathered around to enjoy the birthday feast—licking the blood- and broth-flavored ice layers and eating every piece of the cake décor. The décor included the word “one” on the front of the cake, written in ground meat, and a cupcake-shaped cake topper complete with a candle, made of ground beef and frozen blood, sprinkled with chunks of meat.

The cakes were given to the cheetahs by their keepers as an enrichment item. Enrichment is important for the cats, as it keeps the animals stimulated and active, allowing them to show their natural behaviors.
The cheetah cubs were born to first-time mother Addison on July 13, 2014 at the Safari Park’s off-site cheetah breeding center. The family moved to the Safari Park’s Okavango Outpost when the cubs were four months old. The two male cubs, named Wgasa and Refu, and the two females, Pumzika and Mahala, were all named after former areas of the Safari Park.

Cheetahs are found in Africa and a small part of Iran. They are classified as vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. It is estimated that the worldwide population of cheetahs has dropped from 100,000 in 1900 to just 10,000 today, with about 10 percent living in zoos or wildlife parks.

San Diego Zoo Global has been breeding cheetahs for more than 40 years, yielding more than 150 cubs. It has been instrumental in the formation of a Breeding Center Coalition (BCC) to create a sustainable cheetah population that will prevent extinction of the world’s fastest land animal. Eight other organizations are participating in the breeding program for this endangered species: Fossil Rim Wildlife Center in Glen Rose, Texas; White Oak Conservation Center in Yulee, Fla.; The Wilds and the Cincinnati Zoo in Ohio; the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Va.; the St. Louis Zoo; the Wildlife Safari in Oregon; and Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo.

The cubs and their mother can be seen from the Africa Tram Safari or from the pathway at Okavango Outpost. Through Aug 16, Safari Park guests can enjoy amazing animals like these cheetahs during extended summer hours—from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily—along with special Asian-themed entertainment at the Summer Safari Asian Celebration, included with Safari Park admission and membership.

Bringing species back from the brink of extinction is the goal of San Diego Zoo Global. As a leader in conservation, the work of San Diego Zoo Global includes on-site wildlife conservation efforts (representing both plants and animals) at the San Diego Zoo, San Diego Zoo Safari Park, and San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, as well as international field programs on six continents. The work of these entities is made accessible to children through the San Diego Zoo Kids network, reaching out through the Internet and in children’s hospitals nationwide. The work of San Diego Zoo Global is made possible by the San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy and is supported in part by the Foundation of San Diego Zoo Global.

Photo taken on July 13, 2015 by Ken Bohn, San Diego Zoo Safari Park

CONTACT: SAN DIEGO ZOO GLOBAL PUBLIC RELATIONS, 619-685-3291

0

Grizzly Bears Wrestle in Snow at the San Diego Zoo

Grizzly bear brothers Scout and Montana enjoyed a "snow day" recently at the San Diego Zoo.

Grizzly bear brothers Scout and Montana enjoyed a “snow day” recently at the San Diego Zoo.

Grizzly bears Montana and Scout received a cool surprise when they were released into the exhibit Saturday morning at the San Diego Zoo. Everything in their habitat was covered in snow, given to them as a gift from a donor. The bear brothers were hesitant at first but quickly warmed up to the experience by wrestling, running and a lot of digging.

The San Diego Zoo’s 8-year-old grizzly bear brothers have been at the San Diego Zoo since 2007 and have a reputation for being playful. Snow is just one of the many items provided as an enrichment activity for exploring and foraging.

It was once thought that there were 86 different kinds of grizzlies and brown bears in North America alone. Today, scientists agree that there is only one species of brown bear with 6 recognized subspecies. Brown bears in interior North America are known as grizzly bears because their brown fur is tipped with white or tan; the word “grizzly” means “sprinkled or streaked with gray.”

Photo taken May 2, 2015, by Ken Bohn, San Diego Zoo

CONTACT: SAN DIEGO ZOO GLOBAL PUBLIC RELATIONS, 619-685-3291
0

San Diego Zoo Gives Enrichment Wreaths to Meerkats

Meerkat WreathA meerkat sits in the middle of a wreath inside its enclosure this morning at the San Diego Zoo. The wreath was one of four made by animal care staff, crafted from lavender star plants grown at the Zoo and accented with a bow created from a part of a palm tree. The other wreaths sported red hibiscus flowers. All were “trimmed” with mealworms, which is part of the meerkats’ usual diet.

The wreath enrichment was created to encourage the six meerkats’ natural behavior to dig, forage and explore. Meerkats live in underground burrows in large groups called a mob. Meerkats have long claws to help them dig their burrows and to uncover food. They have a special membrane that covers the eye to protect it from dirt and rocks while they burrow. They also have ears that can close to keep out soil when digging.

There are wreaths and lights decorating the entire San Diego Zoo during the annual Jungle Bells celebration, presented by California Coast Credit Union. The holiday event runs now through Jan. 4, 2015, with the exception of Dec. 24, and is free with paid admission or membership to the San Diego Zoo. Visit www.sandiegozoo.org/junglebells for a schedule of other activities and more information about Jungle Bells.

Photo taken on Dec.15, 2014, by Ken Bohn, San Diego Zoo.

CONTACT: SAN DIEGO ZOO GLOBAL PUBLIC RELATIONS, 619-685-3291
51

Scents for Polar Bears

Kalluk thinks snow is the PERFECT enrichment for polar bears!

Kalluk thinks snow is the PERFECT enrichment for polar bears!

Lions and tigers love perfume and giant pandas enjoy the smell of cinnamon, but do the San Diego Zoo’s polar bears get a kick out of scent enrichment, too? Keeper Matt Price explained to me that although our Arctic bruins have impressive sniffers, they don’t go all crazy rubbing around in smelly things like some critters do!

Keepers do have an impressive arsenal of scents on hand for the animals in their care. Various perfumes, essential oils, spices, and even synthetic urine from other species are used from time to time to give our Zoo animals something different to experience, investigate, or delight in. The big cats and pandas roll around in the scent, seemingly trying to spread it all over their body. But the polar bears’ reaction is different: they give the new smell a good sniff and then go on with whatever activity they were doing—no big deal! So instead, Matt or his fellow keepers make a scent trail that leads the bear to a big payoff—an extra-special food treat or new toy. The bear follows the smell to the prize!

There is one type of scent enrichment that DOES get more of a reaction from our polar bears: camel and llama hair. Keepers collect the shed hair and place it in small piles for the bears, who roll around in it with great gusto!

Debbie Andreen is an editor for San Diego Zoo Global. Read her previous post, Gao Gao: Class Clown.

135

An Enriched Elephant Herd

The kids enjoy an early-morning pool party.

The kids enjoy an early-morning pool party.

As chronicled in my last post, Tracking Safari Park Elephants, both keepers and researchers consistently strive to improve the welfare of our elephants at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. One such way we can enhance welfare is through the use of enrichment. Enrichment provides our elephants with opportunities to engage in species-appropriate behaviors. Making changes to their social groupings, along with providing more variety in the types and amounts of browse food items given, has proved extremely beneficial. The separation and reuniting of individuals from yard to yard encourages heightened levels of social behavior. Access to bodies of water can encourage everything from taking a simple drink to providing a good place to cool off, and is occasionally a great venue for a full-on pool party!

Vus'Musi and Msholo spar.

Vus’musi and Msholo spar.

Our overarching aim is to maintain a high diversity of positive naturalistic behaviors: we want our elephants to be elephants, and it takes a lot of work to ensure they receive those opportunities. Every morning, keepers go over the plan for the day, and that plan always involves some type of enrichment. One of my personal favorites is when a fresh mud bog is made in the west yard, a task that requires much skill to produce the perfect consistency of mud. The elephants then get to spend the day wallowing, playing, and cooling off in it. Feeder puzzles are another fun device. Some are round while some are rectangular, and all are filled with alfalfa pellets or fresh hay. To get to the food product inside, the elephants have to kick, push, and use their heads (literally and figuratively!), all of which provides them with both mental and physical stimulation while satisfying their appetite.

Swazi reaches up to a hay pile above her head with Msholo, Mac, Emanti, Kami, and Qinisa nearby.

Swazi reaches up to a hay pile above her head with Msholo, Mac, Emanti, Kami, and Qinisa nearby.

Because enrichment is deployed every day, creative minds have to band together to keep the environment as unpredictable as possible. One recent example of this is the variety of produce that is now being introduced (such as romaine lettuce, cucumbers, and celery) to go along with the alfalfa pellets that the elephants receive. Another example is the frequent change in placement of common enrichment products. The Boomer Ball that was previously in the east yard may show up the next day in the pool of the west yard. Even celebrating the birthday of an elephant switches up the herd’s diet and overall schedule, and because it doesn’t happen every day, it is also a very enriching event.

There are many ways to keep the elephants both mentally and physically engaged with their environment, but all require teamwork, scattered scheduling, and creative minds. The next time you’re watching Elephant Cam or visiting our African elephant herd at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, keep an eye out for any interesting behaviors or interactions resulting from our enrichment efforts. Maybe M’sholo and Vus’musi will be playing in the pool. Perhaps Kami will be kicking around a feeder puzzle, or Swazi will munch on some alfalfa hay. Whichever behaviors you observe, you’ll be witnessing the results of our efforts to ensure that our herd is fully enriched!

Charlotte Hacker is a research technician for the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research.

21

Orangutans: Why the Burlap?

A young Cinta enjoyed burlap, too!

A young Cinta enjoyed burlap, too!

Satu sits slightly down with a piece of burlap over his head; Indah lies in a hammock completely covered by burlap, and Karen has a burlap bag clutched in her foot as she does somersaults in front of the glass. What’s up with the burlap? Burlap is one of the enrichment items we give the orangutans on exhibit. If you have spent anytime at the San Diego Zoo, you probably have heard of enrichment. Enrichment basically refers to anything given to the animals that will increase their activity both physically and mentally.

When animals are on exhibit, we are limited to items that are natural in appearance, and with orangutans, we are limited further to items that are “orangutan proof.” Orangutans are intelligent, strong, and creative animals. Great care has to be given so that individuals cannot hurt themselves, destroy the items, or, more likely, use the item as a tool for mischief.

In addition to the burlap, pinecones, gourds, bamboo, browse, and palm fronds are enrichment items we commonly use on exhibit. We try to give them items that will encourage natural behaviors. Orangutans are arboreal mammals from the rain forest. They use branches and large fronds to protect themselves from the rain and sun. We give them burlap, browse, and palm fronds to mimic this behavior. We put treats and smears in and on the pinecones, gourds, and bamboo to encourage foraging behaviors and tool use. We have a simulated termite mound in the exhibit, which, of course, does not contain ants or termites but different sauces. It is not so important what is in the termite mound but that they use tools to extract what they want out of it.

Tool use is a learned behavior passed from mother to offspring. We saw Indah actively teaching Cinta to use the termite mound, and it will be great to see her do the same with her newest baby, Aisha. Different groups have different tool use methods, and even individuals have a preference when it comes to extracting the enrichment. When we give bamboo cups with gelatin inside, Satu likes to use his strong jaws and teeth to just break it open, Cinta would pound it on rocks and knock out the gelatin, while Karen uses a small stick to get the good stuff.

You will also notice when you look at the exhibit that there are large, plastic items hung on ropes. While they are not natural looking, they fulfill the other requirement: they are orangutan proof. We use these as permanent enrichment items in the exhibit. In addition to the animals using them to swing and play with, we also put food items inside periodically. As a result, the orangutans check them every day. This increases their activity level, but it also mimics a natural behavior. Orangutans have a mental map of the rain forest: where the fruiting trees are located, and what is edible. They remember where they found food in the past and return to it later.

Tanya Howard is a senior keeper at the San Diego Zoo. Read her previous post, Orangutan Aisha at 5 Months.