As the name suggests enrichment is a way of making a captive animals life richer and more varied. Enrichment is actually a bad description as it sounds like an optional extra, whereas Howletts and Port Lympne Wild Animal Parks like to think of it as good husbandry and our keepers try as much as they can to incorporate it into their day to day work.
Enrichment is what separates an enclosure from a cage, as an enclosure is a space where an animal can live with everything it needs to maintain a happy and healthy life, with good physical and mental fitness. Animals at Howletts and Port Lympne can all be said to live in enclosures. We aim to provide environments that are complex and varied, with lots of enclosure furniture and lush vegetation where appropriate. These act not only as great climbing frames but also as important cover to give the animals within a sense of safety from things that might cause them upset, like noisy crowds or other animals.
What this means is when you come to our parks you might not see all the animals, or at least not straight away. When you do see them out and about however, it is because they are happy being on show and you are more likely to see them doing relaxed, natural behaviours like playing, exploring and interacting with each other. In fact you are more likely to see them in full view this way because they know if they need to, they can hide away, which means they are more likely to be out on show.
In addition we try and add in things like feeders, novel objects and sensory stimulation that keep the enclosure changing and varied as it would be in the wild. For example, imagine you are at home alone, you are locked inside your house and garden but there is nothing in there to do. Someone delivers food and water twice a day but that’s it. How would you feel? Bored, a bit stressed, frustrated? Not very happy is probably the answer!
So what if we gave you some friends and/or family to keep you company? What if we made meal times more interesting, more often and more varied to add some excitement? What about if we give you access to some gym equipment, maybe a swimming pool to keep yourself fit and healthy? And what if we gave you access to books, toys for the kids and big toys for the adults, the internet and computer games? And importantly what if we made the people who delivered your food friends! How would you feel then? That would be our way of enriching you and our challenge is to do the same for the animals in our care.