Not Enough Enrichment Supplies?

One of the obstacles for enrichment programs is having enough supplies. This dilemma is often a result of low funding for enrichment items, which can be quite expensive. However, enrichment can be inexpensive or free with some creativity and innovation.

In the zoo

Socialization enrichment doesn't have to be between the same species (conspecifics). If your zoo has education animals, it may be enriching for both participants to meet. Of course, they won't have access to each other and predator/prey introductions can be too stressful. But some animals have had success with this type of enrichment.

Predator/prey enrichment is a safe possibility via scents. Although prey smelling the scent of a predator is technically an enrichment, it again may be too stressful for the animals. Oppositely, a predator smelling the scent of prey can be an enjoyable and safe enrichment.

Ask other keepers to save feathers, browse, or other items from their animals to give to yours. I often saved the uneaten bamboo from the lemurs for the fossa. Although fossa don't typically enjoy browse, they loved it when it smelled of lemur.

At home

Scents are often overlooked as enrichments. In your own kitchen (or the zoo's), you likely have several items that would drive your animals wild. Citrus peels, coffee, spices, herbs, and fish oils are just a few examples of scent enrichments that are often disposed of before reaching their enrichment potential. Spider monkeys seem to love rubbing citrus peels on themselves.

Cardboard is a zookeeper's best friend. Boxes are versatile in the type of enrichment being utilized. Paper towel rolls, milk cartons, and paper egg cartons are often discarded at home, but can instead be made into infinite enrichments with a little bit of creativity.

Chances are, you have a smartphone. Many free apps can be enrichment, both visual and auditory. Sounds and videos of prey or conspecifics, music, and apps for toddlers are some easily-accessible enrichments.


Most zoo guests care about the wellbeing of the animals in their zoo. It never hurts to ask guests or friends to help provide enrichment items. If everyone contributes even a small about, you'll have more enrichment supplies than you'll know what to do with!

Firehoses are versatile and strong. Entire exhibit structures can be made with them. Asking your local fire department for old, discarded hoses could be a huge payoff.

Vet clinics are also often happy to help. Empty surgical glove boxes are a quick enrichment, and clinics often have donated crates that can help with behavioral training.


Being creative every day isn't easy. Often, we get stuck in a routine of giving the same type of enrichment over and over. This, of course, makes enrichment less effective. One solution to the problem of not having enough supplies is to broaden your definition of enrichment.

Enrichment is a vague term with endless possibilities. Enrichment can be divided into 7 types (or 5 depending on who you talk to): puzzle, feeding, sensory, training, environmental, social, and manipulation. Once you remember these categories, it can help you to expand your enrichment routine.

Having trouble remembering all 7 categories? Use this mnemonic sentence: My First Training Session Pleasantly Surprised Everyone.

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