refers to the naturalization of animals’
exterior habitats as an effective tool to promote and ensure the conservation
of species in zoos.
As part of what constitutes the
conservation of wild animals ex situ in zoos, environmental enrichment has
become an essential instrument for improving the quality of life of each animal
in its exterior enclosure, and in many cases in interior facilities and
shelters as well.
This simple formula will help the visitor
quickly visualise why we need enrichment in zoos and wildlife parks:
Enrichment = quality of life = improved
well being = reproduction
Ex situ conservation
Environmental enrichment consists of
providing each species, in its enclosure, with the natural biotic and abiotic elements
that reproduce, as far as possible, its natural environment in order to avoid
any aberrant or unnatural behaviour.
The purpose of environmental enrichment is
to induce and encourage the most natural possible behaviour in the animal; in
this way, the animal is kept busy and entertained to prevent the appearance of
stereotypical behaviour symptomatic of boredom, which leads to continuous
stress and the potential emergence of a pathology that could damage its health.
The correct environmental enrichment of a facility, apart from encouraging
natural behaviour in the animal, is an extremely valuable tool for achieving
conservation objectives, as by providing the animal with a habitat as closely
adapted as possible to its natural state we optimize the possibility of
reproduction and perpetuation of the species.
There are a series of considerations that
need to be taken into account when it comes to enriching the enclosure in which
each species will be permanently living and, we hope, breeding. The key factors
for guaranteeing the right type of enrichment, i.e. adapting naturally to the
ecological profile of each species, are:
Drawing up an ecological profile of the
species (knowledge of its history and evaluation of its primary and secondary
environmental needs) in order to enrich its enclosure: by knowing its natural
history, we know its needs in terms of habitat, terrain topography, soil type,
hard or soft substrate, humidity and temperature conditions, the type of refuge
for hiding or sleeping, how much water to provide, whether to install rocks and
trunks, whether it needs shade or strong sun, etc.
Determining the usable surface area of the
exterior enclosure and the nature and quantity of naturalization elements that
need to be installed.
If the animals spend a large part of the
day in the water, a facility of the right size needs to be designed so they can
partially or fully submerge themselves.
Selecting the additional elements (by type
and size) that relate to the size of the facilities.
Naturalization of the facilities: finding
the formula or combination of elements that best or most closely represent part
of their natural habitat, and getting it to resemble that habitat as closely as
possible when adding and positioning the different elements (trees, trunks –
whether fallen or placed – trunks alternating with rocks, earth mounds,
ditches, areas of denser vegetation, predominance of high or low grasses, etc.)
until achieving the most accurate possible reproduction of their natural
Permanent monitoring of the animals’
behaviour, noting any behavioural anomalies.
Analysing and studying any anomalies.
Correcting the anomalies caused by external
Following these key points it is possible
to create better, more appropriate and habitable living conditions for the
animals in our installations, and also change the viewing public’s perception
and appreciation of them.