When visiting the petting zoo at the Creation Museum, you may notice objects in the enclosures that appear out of place. The zoo keeping staff works diligently to provide the animals with everything that they need to live long and happy lives. Part of taking care of animals is providing them with enrichment. Enrichment is often defined as the process of enhancing an animal’s environment based on its natural behavior.
At the petting zoo, we use many different types of enrichment. The most popular form with our animals is food enrichment! During the summer months we freeze fruits and veggies in water, so the animals get fun "Popsicles”; these provide a cool way for the animals to get a treat! Another form of food-based enrichment is the use of pruned tree branches, which our grounds department is kind enough to provide.
We use sensory enrichment as well; this would include anything that stimulates an animal’s senses. We often give our coatis items that have been sprayed with scents such as perfumes. This encourages the animals to smell, and in the coatis’ case, to rub the scents on their tails! Our donkey, Ella, loves to play with brushes or even drag around a cardboard box.
Another form of enrichment we use is training! Our animals love to learn, and they enjoy our training sessions. You may notice a zookeeper do a training session with the zorse and zonkey; it might be something as simple as dragging a garbage bag around the enclosure, but even this simple act helps the zebroids to learn and is enjoyable for them. Our camels get exercise and enrichment by giving camel rides!