Ever heard of enrichment? Let's talk about it.
What is enrichment?
By definition, it is the action of improving or enhancing the value or quality of something. Enrichment is very important for improving quality of life, even in humans. It changes your environment and encourages mental, physical, emotional, and sensory stimulation. It can be a positive experience or a negative experience. For people, enrichment can look like puzzles, games, books, sports, room decor, movies, music, crafts, and so much more. Our keepers like to listen to music, read and write, paint, do puzzles, and hike!
In animal care, enrichment is a fancy word for toys. Enrichment is vital in keeping animals in captivity active and stimulated. Animals in the care of humans don’t face a lot of the threats they would in the wild, like escaping predators and finding safe homes, mates, or food. One of the biggest threats is boredom! So for animals, enrichment keeps their brains and bodies active and healthy. It encourages them to move, think, and interact with their environment. This includes pets as well! Household animals like dogs, cats, hamsters, and even reptiles and fish, need enrichment to keep them active and thinking. This doesn’t mean buying a new toy every month. Pet enrichment can include changing where you go on walks, adding a new scent to a favorite toy, rearranging their environment, and even inviting friends over! Keep your pet friends happy by mixing things up for them.
Zoo animals, like wild cats, like cardboard boxes, trees, spices, and perfume. Others, like monkeys, get scatter fed, unique climbing apparatus, and paper. For herbivores, giving them plants or vegetables they don’t usually eat can be fun and exciting. Sea animals get treats in baby toys or ice cubes. Training is also a form of enrichment, engaging the animal’s mind and helping the keepers with important medical check ups. Even visitors to a zoological facility can count as enrichment.
Photo taken by Keeper Clementine
Enrichment with Bats!
Bats are intelligent animals, comparable to a cat or dog. Out in the wild, they are always active. They live in large groups, travel and search for food, escape predators, and find mates. Here at Lubee, though, they’re safe from predators and fed every day. So, our bats get enriched every day.
Lubee’s enrichment falls into five categories: cognitive, physical, social, sensory, and food.
Cognitive enrichment is anything that encourages our bats to think and solve puzzles. This includes gravity bowls, buckets on chains, puzzle feeders, and balls. Often these toys are combined with food and the bats have to figure out how to get the food out of the toys. Our bats are always learning, so even when they get the hang of a toy, you’ll often see them figuring out even easier ways to get the food out of the toy.
Physical enrichment is anything that encourages our bats to move their body. This includes ladders, ropes, hula hoops, and tires. These toys encourage the bats to walk and climb up and down and hang on different textures. In the wild, these bats would be hanging in trees and climbing to reach food, so this emulates their lifestyle in the wild.
Social enrichment is anything that encourages our bats to interact with each other. Fruit bats are highly social animals that live in large groups. Our bats get lots of social interactions every day because they live in groups in their pens. The bats will fight and argue over food, toys, and even the best sunning spots. Social enrichment includes mirrors, reptile interactions with Lubee’s resident reptiles, and moving scent bears. Fruit bats are scent oriented animals, so introducing them to each other’s scents is a great source of enrichment.
Sensory enrichment is anything that encourages our bats to use their five senses. This includes spices, music, bells and windchimes, perfume, and scratchies with a toothbrush on a stick. The bats get to use their hearing, smell, and touch and experience things they don’t usually interact with. Some bats get really interested in sensory enrichment and other bats don’t care very much.
Food enrichment is anything that gives our bats a tasty treat! This includes fresh and canned fruit, fruit and vegetable baby food, and juice. For toys, this can include lickmats, lixits, silicone muffin liners, and suet feeders. Food can also be combined with almost any other type of enrichment. Food is our bats’ favorite type of enrichment because they love those extra treats.
Although we’ve discussed the five categories of enrichment as if they are very distinct, these types overlap quite often. Most of our cognitive and physical enrichments are combined with food and many of our sensory and social enrichments are similar. Overlapping types of enrichment can be great for our animals’ brains and bodies, making them think and interact in more complicated and advanced ways. We try to mix it up for them as often as possible and are always thinking up more ideas! Just another way of the bats enriching us keepers.
Let’s talk safety. When we make a new enrichment or get a new enrichment item, it must be observed and evaluated to make sure it is safe for the animals. We observe our animals for 5-10 minutes to see how they interact with the enrichment. We need to be aware of any way an animal could break the item, get caught or get hurt, or even consume the item. By observing their behavior, we can improve the enrichment or get rid of the enrichment, if it ends up being potentially hazardous. We can decide if it can be left overnight, so our bats can enjoy it when they’re most active. It also allows us to see what category the enrichment falls under and if it can be combined with another category (often food!).
You can participate in enrichment for our bats and keeper by providing toys, baby food, and juice through our Amazon wishlist. Everything is appreciated by our bats!
To all our batty friends out there, stay enriched!