It’s that time of year again where exams are practically all people have been talking about for the past couple of months! Although the college exams are long over and most people are finished or are in their final days of their Leaving Cert exams, some of our reptiles are still being put through their paces!
We wanted to take this opportunity to tell you a little bit about our Environmental Enrichment Program.
“Environmental enrichment is the process of providing stimulating environments for Zoo animals in order for them to demonstrate their species-typical behavior, to allow them exercise control or choice over their environment, and to enhance their well-being.”
Enrichment is already used for a lot of mammals and birds in captivity, but these programs aren’t as common with reptiles
We wanted to change that and find out whether or not reptiles are able to learn and solve things as well.
The idea is that we put (what we think to be) stimulating objects into the exhibits, then we observe the reptiles reactions to see if their activity will increase, this is a good indicator as to whether or not they are stimulated.
We began using ‘cricket feeders’. We use a part of a bamboo stick, put in crickets, and hang it up in the exhibit, simple really!
The idea is that the animals need to find a way to get the crickets to come out so that they can eat them.
We found out that some animals are already stimulated by just the smell of the crickets and show instant interest in the cricket feeder.
Some however, don’t really have a clue of what to do with the object. They just take glance at it but that’s it. And some are kind of in the middle, they smell the crickets, but they don’t make the connection between the cricket feeder and the scent of the crickets.
We measure the amount activity the animal is showing, both with and without the cricket feeder, so that we can see if the enrichment is working or not.
So far, we have only done this with our cricket eating lizards and we are working on training our monitor lizards with colour targets too. We are looking into ideas on how to stimulate our snakes, meat and plant eating lizards, tortoises, turtles and crocodilians and we’ll hopefully have some more updates for you soon!
Until then, why not check out our YouTube Channel?