Engaged Animals

Humboldt penguin with fish at Brookfield Zoo

Hopefully you had a chance to read our earlier blog about penguin enrichment last month. Here at the Brookfield Zoo we are committed to providing the animals with the highest possible levels of care and welfare, and part of that care starts with our enrichment program. Environmental enrichment is providing animals under professional care with opportunities for them to engage in behaviors they are motivated to perform. For example, we might provide our male lion with a fresh piece of browse (tree clippings) so that they can mark their territory, or we might provide our penguins with live fish to increase the time they spend active in the water. The Brookfield Zoo is committed to ensuring we are meeting the behavioral needs of our animals.

In 2017, the Brookfield Zoo hired a third-party company to develop a new enrichment application called EnrichTrak.  The goal of this online application is to make the scheduling of enrichment easier for our staff, as well as making sure we are providing the right type of enrichment at the correct time and location. Have you ever left a toy out for your dog or cat, only to realize that after a while they lose interest? This loss of interest is referred to as habituation and just like your pets at home, animals under professional care will also lose interest if we provide certain enrichment too frequently.

African lions with tree at Brookfield Zoo

One of the main goals of EnrichTrak is to schedule enrichment for animals based on their behavior. For example, if the last time an enrichment item was presented an animal ignored it, then that item wouldn’t be presented again for a certain amount of time to try and regain interest from the animal.  This way we can help ensure we are meeting the needs of the animals, scheduling enrichment based on the behavior and the preferences of each individual animal under our professional care. We hope to test a fully functioning version of EnrichTrak this spring and will share additional updates as things progress.

While our animal care staff does a great job providing enrichment for the animals, it is all about continuous improvement and trying to determine new ways to improve the welfare of the animals under our professional care. Next time you visit the Brookfield Zoo, look around the exhibits to see if you can identify the different types of enrichment that are being provided and the types of behavior we are trying to promote for our amazing animals.


Posted: 4/17/2018 4:07:54 PM by Bryan Todd Oakley

CZS & Brookfield Zoo

Since the opening of Brookfield Zoo in 1934, the Chicago Zoological Society has had an international reputation for taking a cutting-edge role in animal care and conservation of the natural world. Learn more about the animals, people, and research that make up CZS here at our blog.


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