Te whakahaumako o te kararehe me te whakangungu

Animal enrichment and training

Enrichment is an important and challenging part of a Brooklands Zoo keeper’s daily routine.

Animals of all types need enrichment to help encourage and stimulate natural behaviours such as foraging for food, stalking and hunting, smelling new scents and changing their environment.

Animal training at Brooklands Zoo allows keepers to handle animals or perform medical procedures safely, provides mental stimulation for the animals and is a great way to create trust between animal and keeper. Many of the Brooklands Zoo animals recognise hand, voice and whistle signals from the keeper staff.

Some enrichment examples are to: 

  • randomly rotate objects within habitats
  • add appropriate leaves, branches and plants for animals to either eat, use as bedding or to just rip to shreds
  • add different smells to habitats such as spices and feathers
  • put in ‘animal-friendly’ toys
  • hide items in boxes
  • blow bubbles into habitats
  • smear small amounts of vegemite or jam around in habitats (for treats)
  • add mirrors and shiny objects to habitats
  • hide food around in habitats to make it more challenging and let the animals forage for their food as they would in the wild.

How do the animals respond?

Enrichment helps to keep Brooklands Zoo’s animals active and interested. Coming up with new ideas is a challenge and definitely keeps our keepers on their toes but is really rewarding when we see the reactions from the animals as we try and think of new and exciting ways to exhibit the natural behaviours each species would show in the wild. 

Our capuchins spend hours foraging in the grasses and plants in their habitat for insects to eat. They are big tool users and spend time cracking open coconuts and different varieties of nuts that we give out. They are also good hunters (even catching the occasional bird that flies into their habitat).

Some animals like our alpacas aren’t so sure about some enrichment items. This can be good enrichment in itself – not everything in the wild would be welcomed.

We also mix different spices into pastes and smear them around objects in habitats. New scents in a habitat can create different reactions with animals.

The majority of our keepers' days are spent preparing and feeding out food, cleaning and enrichment. We monitor our animals’ health closely and when an animal is showing signs of not engaging in enrichment then sometimes it can be an indication to us that the animal is not quite feeling itself.

Could you help?

We are always looking for new ways to enrich the lives of the animals at the zoo. If you would like to donate any of the following items, please contact us.

  • Blankets, towels or sheets (in good condition)
  • Burlap material or sacks
  • Large cardboard tubes or boxes (staple-free)
  • Parrot, dog or cat toys
  • Plastic buckets
  • Plastic sandpits
  • Baby or toddler toys (in good condition)
  • Aquariums
  • Animal kennels
  • Aviaries
  • Untreated wood (for making enrichment items/toys)
  • Natural rope of varying sizes and lengths e.g. sisal rope