Tigers and Otters by Chelsea and Camille
Hi! Chelsea and Camille here, checking out the fur, feathers, and fun at our local zoo. We love animals, and we like to make them feel as happy as possible. One way to accomplish this is through "zoo enrichment." Zoo enrichment involves giving animals interesting objects, and making their environments seem like home. Good enrichment stimulates the animals to use their natural skills and behaviors, and keeps them from getting bored. So when we decided to design an enrichment for tigers and otters, we wondered: How do zoo keepers know what items or surroundings to give an animal, and what if the animal ignores the enrichment?
What did we do?
We worked with the zoo to develop play objects for two animals: river otters and tigers. For the otters, we prepared a six-sided bamboo hoop, and put food into the holes we drilled into the hexagon! For the tigers, we made a papier-mâchè warthog, and again filled it with yummy tiger snacks.
What did we find out?
Each toy seemed to keep the animals' attention for several minutes, and brought out the natural behaviors that keep them busy, healthy and happy!
- Write a letter to your local zoo, asking their help in selecting an enrichment toy for an animal at that zoo. Have the zookeeper tell you what kinds of things they would allow you to put into a certain animal's exhibit. For example, you might be permitted to use wood, but not plastic. Have several friends come up with different ideas, and then submit them to the zoo for judgment. If possible, get permission to actually put the winning project in the animal exhibit!
- You've seen cool toys in the store for your dog or cat. Why not develop you own? Think of the toy your pet loves most. Come up with three ways to modify the toy. For example, is there a color or texture of string your cat prefers to chase? Develop a toy, do some tests with your pets, and examine your results.
- Use this life science investigation as a science fair project idea for your elementary or middle school science fair! Then tell us about it!