The aim of environmental enrichment is to improve animal welfare in captivity. The basic concept is we try to provide a more stimulating environment, increasing the diversity of behaviour and decreasing any existing abnormal behaviour.
Chimpanzees at Tacugama are housed in different kinds of enclosures. Our forest enclosures don’t really need enrichment because the environment is already well enriched; many trees, branches, vines, insects, etc. The smaller enclosures are well provided with poles, ropes, swings, and lots of other chimps to play with. Still, it’s nice to give to the chimps opportunities for a wider range of natural behaviour. For instance, instead of giving palm nuts to the chimps directly, we have tried scattering the nuts or hiding them in the ground.
The care staff hiding nuts in the enclosure
Enrichment is also important to keep chimps busy who are staying in cages for a while. For example, young Nico who is still in recovery from his arm surgery. (More info on Nico’s operation can be found in our blog update from last November.)
Nico playing and enjoying his ball
Care staff have been providing new ropes and swings, plastic pipes or a Kong toy smeared with food, puzzle feeders, branches and leaves, cardboard filled with shredded paper and small treats, etc. to keep the chimps entertained.
Thanks goes out to former volunteer Caroline Griffis who set up a lot of the enrichment protocols, current volunteer Brunilde Ract-Madoux and generous lodge guest Jutta Philipp who provided us with the burlap bags and new climbing rope.
If you have access to second hand climbing rope, burlap bags, old firehose, Kong toys, Boomer balls etc, let us know through info@tacugama. If you live in/around Freetown, also let us know if you have spare newspaper/cardboard; old tires, water containers (for water cooler) etc. The chimps will be grateful!
Chimps discovering and playing with burlap bags