Behavioural enrichment plays a very important role in the care of all of Taronga’s animals.
It provides mental and physical stimulation for animals and, when effectively implemented, allows them to exhibit natural behaviours.
While Taronga Zoo’s seals are enriched through their regular interactions and training sessions with their keepers, the Marine Mammal team is constantly seeking new ways to challenge them.
Recently, keeper Rienna designed a new enrichment toy for California Sea lion, Michi, as she continued to build on their rapport.
When designing any enrichment item, it is important to consider the animal’s capabilities – both in what they can achieve and what they can destroy – as there can be a fine line between an item that is fun and challenging and one that is just frustrating.
For this reason, any new items are discussed within the department and, where necessary, with the zoo vets. There is always close observation when new items are trialled, to assess how effective it is.
In this case, the item proved to be very successful: it kept Michi working for a good length of time, while mimicking the kind of foraging behaviour that is observed in wild sea lions.
While there are some improvements that can be made, Rienna and Michi alike were very satisfied with this first prototype!
- Marine Mammal Keeper, Stephen Dalleywater