Environmental enrichment involves the enhancement of an animal’s physical, social and mental environment and at Remus we take a serious responsibility for providing this to all our animals.
Enrichment comes in various forms. For sensory enrichment we use specially selected music. This is played throughout the Sanctuary to create a relaxing atmosphere and generally has a calming effect on the animals. We also use mirrors in the stables, this visual enrichment provides company for animals. They all act differently when they see their own reflection, some will just stare, and others are more vocal. It is very endearing to watch but the important thing is we know they are interacting.
Taste and smell is another sensory enrichment and for this we use a selection of herbs that are offered to each animal. The key component here is that the animal chooses what herbs they want. One of the main things we forget, is that humans have domesticated the animals and in doing so have taken away their right to choose. What they would have foraged for in the wild when they needed a medicinal herb they can no longer do. At Remus we like to say to the animals, “what would you like to choose today?”
Grooming is a tactile enrichment between humans and animals and not only helps create a bond but is also very good for circulation and relaxation. Stroking, talking, interacting with the animals on a one-to-one basis is an important part and our sheep especially love this kind of enrichment.
We have many different types of balls and toys in the paddocks for the animals to play with. Some are designed to be manipulated with hooves, whereas others can be picked up by their teeth and thrown about. The donkeys have a very large ball and they all love to throw and pull it around the paddock. Treat balls are used for mental stimulation. They also help the animals interact with each other, especially the sheep.
Even placing their hay in different places within the paddock each day is mentally and physically stimulating and promotes a more natural environment where they have to walk around and find it as they would in the wild.
Training, using positive reinforcement, is mental and physical enrichment and can be used for a variety of things including stretches, which helps keep their muscles relaxed to lead rope work, where the animal has to think about what you are asking them to do.
The sheep and goats enjoy different ways of having food treats presented to them. Goats are natural climbers and in their paddock they have wooden ramps leading to a lookout platform where they spend lots of time watching activities going on elsewhere in the sanctuary. There is a log pile for them to stand on and an area with truck tyres built up so they can walk round and climb on them. They also have a trampoline, and really enjoy messing around on it. Again all of this stimulates their mind and it is always under supervision.
It is important the animals are placed in social groups where they are given the opportunity to behave as naturally as possible in a protective environment. Stereotypic behaviour tends to be seen less during enrichment as the animal does not become bored due to the different environmental activities.
At Remus we are continually thinking up new ways of enrichment to provide all our animals with a safe, stimulating environment. Take a look at our ‘Amazon Wish List‘ to see how you can help.