Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Enrichment for One, Enrichment for All!

Name: Amber Wuersig
Class/Year: Class of 2018, Junior
Hometown: Port Clinton, Ohio
Location: Toledo Zoo, Toledo Ohio
Internship: Animal Behavior / Ambassador Animal Intern

Where has the time gone!? This summer has been full of amazing learning experiences, but it’s not over yet! As I mentioned before, I am an animal behavior intern that specializes with ambassador animals. Focusing on this department and helping with the daily husbandry of these animals has afforded me the opportunity to really personalize the enrichment process for the ambassador animals that I work with. For example, I spend A LOT of time making enrichment for the many parrots in the Toledo Zoo’s collection. At first, I would make enrichment items that were very generic so they could be given to any bird that the keepers chose. Since I have gotten to know the birds’ personalities over the summer. I now can make enrichment items that are intended for a specific individual by using materials they prefer, or are more challenging for them. It also gives me the opportunity to use my imagination to come up with novel items that I think each individual will enjoy.  

One of the enrichment items I've made for parrots

 Another cool thing that I am currently doing is a small research project. I spend a lot of time in the goat yard, so we decided that the goats should be my subjects. Like most goats, they sure do love to eat! I am using their love for food as the basis of my project. In fact, I am attempting to increase the foraging time of the goats with their morning diets. I have just began collecting data, and am very excited to see what we can find!

Hanging out with Marigold
All animals in the ambassador animal collection have their daily diets planned out so they can stay at their target weights and remain as healthy as possible. If I were to give a food based enrichment item, it must be accounted for. To avoid the hassle of having the keepers change their diet plans, I typically find ways to incorporate their everyday meals into the enrichment or opt for sensory based enrichment items. This way nobody is getting any extra calories and everyone stays in summertime beach bod condition ;)

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