Wild Encounters: Giraffe enrichment process

Wild Encounters

(WJBF) – Today we’re going to learn more about some of our tall friends at the Riverbanks Zoo.

“Alright, so we are here back in a special area here at Riverbanks Zoo and we are here talking to Jeff and today we’re talking about giraffe enrichment. Jeff, tell us a little bit about the enrichment process and why it’s so important.”

Jeff Mihok, Hoofstock Keeper: “Enrichment is a dynamic process for enhancing the animal’s environment within the contexts of that animal’s natural history and biology. So, it could be as much as adding a toy or a new food or a new scent. In a zoo setting, it’s on us to try and create those changes via different objects; new items we can hang up to watch them exhibit more natural behavior…anything to enhance the overall welfare of the animals.”

“What are some of the things that you guys do for the giraffes here?”

Jeff: “Giraffes are going to be browsers. You have your browsers and you have your grazers. The rhinos that we have here are going to be grazers. They’re going to be eating stuff down low by the grass. Giraffes as browsers, as you can guess, are going to be eating the stuff way up high, up in the trees; leaves, branches, things like that. That’s a big natural behavior there. there’s going to be a foraging for the food in the wild reaching up looking for better things to eat.”

“So, what do we have next?”

Jeff: “So, this is one of those more natural enrichment items I was talking about. If you can’t tell, it’s kind of a fake log. It’s really just well done PVC that’s been designed to recreate a log, like they would see in the wild and it has lots of little obstacles here that they have to get their tongue around; and so we can take some lettuce and hide that in these little spots, shove it way down in there and they get to use that tongue to get every last little bit out of here.”

“Can you show us one more enrichment item before we go?”

Jeff: “This is kind of a thing where we can use this grain and hide it…hide it throughout this little complex puzzle toy we got here and they have to use that tongue to move around these obstacles to try and get all those pieces of grain out.”

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