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Sumatran Tiger Photo: Bryan Thompson

Animal Enrichment

What is animal enrichment?
Why is it important in today's zoo setting?

Animal enrichment within a zoo is a way for keepers to encourage and stimulate natural behaviors in our animals through sight, smell, taste, touch, and interaction. In a zoo setting, it is as important to provide mentally and physically-enriching activities for the animals as it is to provide nutritious, well-balanced diets.

Without sensory stimulation and engaging activities, captive animals may become "bored" and "tired" of their surroundings, and may develop negative behaviors. Enrichment can help reduce those possibilities by changing their environment, encouraging the animals’ natural behaviors, and providing different experiences for their senses.

Animal Enrichment

Most enrichment materials that the zoo uses are everyday items that can be recycled and reused for our animals. Items such as clothes, bed sheets, stuffed animals, newspapers, and magazines are some of the many items that the zoo receives from our volunteers and the community. These donations support enrichment and better the lives of our animals.

Some examples of how simple items are used for enrichment:

  • Paper mache’ balloons are made and filled with treats to be hidden around the exhibit to encourage foraging
  • Bed sheets are knotted, hung, or shredded to create a different environment for our animals, used as bedding, or as a toy
  • Perfume is used to add exciting new scents for animals to explore in their enclosure
  • Spices are also distributed in their enclosures to provide both olfactory and taste stimulation

Learn more about Enrichment at the Honolulu Zoo.

Please click here for a "Wish List" of items that can be used for enrichment and information on how you can donate. Mahalo for your support!

Animal Enrichment Video

Watch our animals open their 2012 Christmas presents.