In the world of animal care, “enrichment” refers to experiences that offer animals an opportunity to satisfy their behavioral needs, optimize their level of mental stimulation and create a rich, variable environment. Exhibit elements, training sessions, novel items, scents and foods—all can be used to help stimulate natural behaviors and keep things interesting for the animals in our care. And, lucky for us, offering enrichments to our animals also enriches the visitor experience for our guests!
Every animal at the Seattle Aquarium receives enrichment. Enrichment methods/tools are categorized under one or more of the following umbrellas:
- Sensory, such as floating objects with differing textures
- Food/feeding, such as task-oriented devices, like puzzles, with a favorite morsel inside
- Habitat, such as changes that add complexity to the surroundings Environmental enrichment devices, such as toys that the animal can manipulate
- Behavioral conditioning, such as training animals to participate in their own care
- Social groupings, which may replicate various grouping arrangements found in the wild
The type and frequency of enrichment is determined by what is appropriate for each animal type. For example, marine mammals are offered enrichment at least once per day; cephalopods at least three times per week; and fish at least twice per week. All enrichments are carefully planned and evaluated by Aquarium animal care staff to make sure they are safe and effective—and staff are constantly thinking up new ideas to keep enrichments fresh.
Come see enrichments in action during one of our daily animal activities!