Here at ZSL (Zoological Society of London) our zookeepers spend a lot of time and effort creating and implementing new environmental enrichment and training programmes for our animals which helps provide them with the very best care at ZSL London Zoo and ZSL Whipsnade Zoo.
The animal teams carry out innovative work to ensure our species are provided with a wealth of opportunities to express their natural behaviours.
From custom-designed enclosures to fun and fascinating enrichment activities, you can explore and discover the wide-ranging work our zookeepers carry out to ensure happy and healthy lives for our animals.
Animal training at ZSL
At ZSL we use a variety of training techniques to keep our animals active and engaged, ensuring they feel in control of their environment and the choices they make.
We use positive reinforcement training to encourage our animals to choose between different activities, from entering a crate for transportation, to being weighed. All of these activities allow our zookeepers to ensure we are maintaining the highest standards of animal welfare and help them lead happy and healthy lives.
Zookeepers also use training techniques to allow veterinary staff to carry out a variety of procedures such as health checks, vaccinations and physical examinations. By introducing our animals to these activities with training, it means we can carry them out in a relaxed environment and avoid the use of sedation.
ZSL has been training animals using positive reinforcement for many years and it all started with our natural behaviour demonstrations. ZSL is committed to educating our visitors and inspiring them with the wonders of the animal kingdom. By showing our visitors the animal’s amazing natural behaviours both within the animal’s enclosures or in a display area, we’re enabling visitors to understand how an animal is adapted to its natural environment.
Enrichment at ZSL
Another crucial part of our dedicated animal care at ZSL is behavioural and environmental enrichment.
There are five main areas we consider when thinking about enriching our animals.
Food based enrichment is probably the most commonly used technique, the goal being to prolong feeding times and encourage the animal’s natural feeding behaviours such as foraging or hunting.
Sensory enrichment can be anything that stimulates the senses so taste, smell, touch, sound and sight. Zookeepers are often trying out new spices and perfumes with our big cats to stimulate scent marking behaviours and we even offer some animals mirrors to play with.
Cognitive enrichment is anything that can mentally challenge or stimulate an animal or engage it in a problem solving exercise. This can include teaching them new behaviours using positive reinforcement or puzzles that result in a food reward.
Social enrichment is ensuring the provision of a species appropriate number of animals and pairings in an animal's habitat, and also includes the potential for different species in the same habitat.
Physical enrichment: The last category of enrichment relates to the environment the animal lives in and, like all the other types of enrichment is designed to encourage natural behaviour of the animal. This can be climbing, grazing, swimming, flying…or maybe just sunbathing or having a bath!