Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Enrichment at Zoo Negara

We let cry whoops of delight watching our jumbo friends at Zoo Negara searching for the packets of treats we had a hand in preparing earlier at the Enrichment Centre.

That capped an eye-opening tour of the Zoo: visiting our endangered wildlife at  their enclosures, listening about their vulnerabilities when humans seek to destroy their habitats or kill for their flesh, blood and all for ill-gotten fortunes.

Under the capable hands of Edwina, the Zoo Education Executive, it was fascinating to hear about the novel ideas and ways that are used to evoke an animal's interest  towards artificial objects, scents and novel foods to encourage  natural behaviours exhibited in the wild and to keep animals mentally and physically fit.
Zoo Negara has up scaled its Enrichment Programme and the Enrichment Centre  was built in response to Act 716 by PERHILITAN ( Wildlife Dept & Natural Parks) for better animal well-being. It is indeed good news  that since Nov 2011, enrichment is now part and parcel of the daily care of the animals.

Under the roof, we saw pinatas, ropes, hammocks, animal cardboard toys and industrial strength toys like the pvc piping, coconut husks, egg cartons, pine cones ready to entice the animals to play, explore, pounce, climb , hunt

With the necessary tools , the staff and volunteers create and shape the enrichment to suit the different animal s' needs. Put quite simply,  the animals have to think on their feet! Also, rousing their senses - auditory, sensory, perhaps using their tail, mouth to achieve their tasks. After all,  strange objects will only prod them to be curious.

The crux of it is to encourage  them to be active: as close to their natural instincts in the wild as possible. Zoo keepers can spot boredom which is exhibited by endless pacing, head bobbing - all unhealthy signs which stress  the animals and pose dangers to their caretakers too.

Safety is also a consideration before providing enrichment to the animals. For example, the pinatas are made of brown paper with flour solution. The balloons are taken out before  giving to the animals . Fruits, boiled eggs, sunflower seeds  etc are hidden in the pinatas.

The orang utan's playground

Heavy duty stuff to last. Thanks to the Education Unit Team  and the Zoology Team for their input in this article.

Mother Rokiah with baby, Maya  - it's bonding time in the hammock.

More hands make light work - getting ready the treats for the elephants - rice with brown sugar, papaya and cucumber. Members of the MCG using the banana leaves to make the food packets. 

Pinatas - what's hidden inside?

Enrichment Centre where ideas flow .

I spy  and smell food!

Food can be hidden in the coconut shells.


  1. Lovely post Keats! Happy Holidays ahead. My regards to Ravi!

  2. Very creative. I wish other zoos follow this example

  3. What a coincidence, Keats! I was volunteering at the Zoo on Thurs. I was right outside the Enrichment centre. I saw the same pinatas. Did you make these?


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