10 SUMMER | 2014 ALN World | alnmag.com
Factors include the
preference of animals,
durability and ability
chment for Enri
Many enrichment devices currently being employed in vivariums are commonly found in a local pet store, however many other types of enrichment are provided from
years of trial and error and the ability of caregivers to
improvise. This article provides a basic summary of factors
to consider when choosing what type(s) of enrichment to
use in your vivarium.
A multitude of articles have been written on the
importance of the relationship between captive animals
and humans.As protocol will allow, this is one of the most
valuable arrangements in enriching animals’ environments.
When this level of interaction is not attainable, inanimate
devices offer a viable option.
Enrichment devices stimulate many senses, including:
food and treat dispensing, gnawing, fine and gross motor
skills, smell, security, play, sound and mental challenges.
Application methods include: cage attachment, hanging or
simply tossing it into the cage.
Does every human like the same food or toy? Of course
not. Animals are the same way, meaning that what works
for one, may not work for the other. There is a general
consensus about what a species may prefer, but on an
individual basis, certain factors should be considered
when choosing the right device(s), such as gender,
size, age and whether or not the species is passive or
aggressive. Plus, there are no set rules to follow on which
enrichment devices will trigger a favorable response. It
may be necessary to test multiple devices before finding
the right one.
While primates have always been the species to
measure the success of enrichment devices, I was
fortunate to have an early experience with mice. When
meeting the director of a vivarium for the first time, I was
treated to view two mice racks. From afar you could see
one rack with mice active playing and jumping, while
the other rack showed little movement. Upon closer
inspection, the active mice had varying toys in every cage.
This experience made me realise that all animals can
benefit in some form or another from enrichment devices.
On a much larger scale, while attending an elephant
conference, many of us first timers were left with our
mouths open to hear the sound the elephant made
when engaged in a tug of war with a small tractor. The
director assured us that the elephant loved this exercise
as it simulated some things it did in the wild. Point being
that the animals should have an opportunity to leave
their enclosure and engage in an activity related to their
How durable is it? Will it hold up to cage washing? Can it
be autoclaved? These are probably the three most asked
questions I’ve heard over the years relating to an animal
toy. While the answers to these questions is usually a
simple yes or no, many other factors come into play
I love to use the phone book-metal pipe example;
most primates enjoy ripping a phone book apart, leaving
personnel to clean up the mess. A cold metal pipe will
last forever, but offer the animal little more than the
potential to hurt itself. Your ultimate decision usually lies
somewhere between these two extremes.
Commonly found materials used for enrichment devices
include: acrylic, fleece (cotton), latex, nylon, polycarbonate,
polyethylene, stainless steel, styrene, thermoplastic and
wood. With the help of Dixon Smiley at the Virginia Tech