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Climbing, swimming, digging, scratching, sniffing, clawing, chasing, stalking, playing, hiding, grooming, vocalising......

These are just a few of the many natural behaviours wild animals show when living in the complex and stimulating environment of their natural habitat. But what happens when these animals live in zoos? How do the people responsible for the animals’ welfare recreate situations that will encourage natural behaviours?

The Importance of Enrichment

To the zoological community, the word ‘enrichment’ describes the approaches and principals adopted to improve the wellbeing of animals in our care, whether they are furry, hairy, feathery or scaly! In good zoos, enrichment is part of everyday animal care and is as important as good husbandry and veterinary practices.

There are many different types of enrichment, for example food, social, or environmental to name but a few. All types of enrichment have similar goals. They allow captive animals opportunities to carry out natural behaviour, as well as help keep them physically and mentally active!

APE Malaysia Enrichment

In 2006 APE Malaysia started to participate in providing enrichment for animals at Zoo Negara. At first our efforts were small but over the years the project as grown into a multi-faceted collaboration between ourselves, the zoo, and volunteers and zoo keepers from all over the world. Most recently we worked alongside the zoo to develop and build the only enrichment centre in Malaysia, which, over the next few years will become a hub for enrichment and education activities around the zoo and hopefully for all other zoos in Malaysia too!

As well as supporting in the development of Zoo Negara’s enrichment programmes, we have also pioneered the use of enrichment as an educational tool. We believe that by creating opportunities for students to participate in the design and implementation of enrichment, we are able to foster a deeper understanding of a zoo animal’s wild ecology as well allowing young people up-close encounters which hopefully help develop empathy for other living beings. We currently facilitate enrichment activities via student programmes not only at Zoo Negara, but also at Matang Wildlife Centre in Sarawak and the Borneo Sun Bear Conservation Centre in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo.

Whether joining us as students or adult volunteers, our programme participants are always fascinated by the world of enrichment – why not join us and find out more!