Importance of Enrichment for Animals in Quarantine Cage

Importance of Enrichment for Animals in Quarantine Cage

Enrichment is a dynamic process to enrich the surroundings of an animal in the context of their natural biological behavior. These environmental changes are made with the goal of providing them with choices and stimulating their natural behavior compatible to their species in the wild, thereby improving their welfare (1999, AZA Behavior Scientific Advisory Group).             

Orangutans spend most of their days looking for food and moving around. Primates in general, including orangutans, do have a habit of moving around with their hands/fingers, which in the wild are needed to find food (Wolfensohn & Honess, 2005). The enrichment is intended to prevent unwanted behavior, eliminate/reduce boredom, and maintain psychological/mental health. Enrichment are divided into five categories, some of which overlap and must be considered when developing an enrichment program.   

  1. Social enrichment
  2. Physical environment enrichment
  3. Food-based enrichment
  4. Sensory enrichment
  5. Cognitive enrichment

Talking about adult male orangutans at Orangutan Sanctuary Center (PSO – ARSARI) located in East Kalimantan, North Penajam Paser area of PT ITCIKU, we carried out four enrichment categories, which are:

  1. Social enrichment

    Social enrichment means giving friends for orangutans. Since PSO is specialized for adult male orangutans, we carry out social enrichment by pairing fellow adult male orangutans so they can still interact, play, and share things even through barriers. PSO team also interact with orangutans and regularly carry out transfers from one quarantine cage to another.

    2. Physical environment enrichment

      Physical environment enrichment means providing furniture installations that can be used by orangutans in their enclosures. These furnitures have several benefits, including:

      • Opportunity to manipulate objects
      • Opportunity to control environment
      • Opportunity to move around, climb, and jump
      • Gives tactile stimulation

      When installing furniture, it is important to note that orangutans are arboreal primates, meaning they live in trees. Thus, furnitures should be made while being mindful of heights, climbing activities, and making nests above the ground. Enrichment such as swinging ropes, hammocks, hanging barrels, and food containers mounted on the top of the cage are highly recommended.

      3. Food-based enrichment

      This type of enrichment is the most frequently used; with food being a staple resource, it is easier to make them interact through food. The purpose of food-based enrichment is to stretch out the time for animals to process and consume it.

      Orangutans in the wild spend about 60% of their day foraging, and thus our goal is to replicate something similar even in cages. At PSO-ARSARI, we try to do two sessions of food-based enrichment per day in addition to the four times regular feeding.

      4. Cognitive enrichment

      Cognitive enrichment aims to stimulate animals by utilizing their memory and problem-solving abilities. This enrichment will stimulate the minds and mental state of orangutans so that they are always alert and not bored. Orangutans are cognitive creatures, and so we must try to provide lots of toys/stimulations to meet their needs.

      Among the keys to a successful enrichment program is novelty. This means that objects used for enrichment must be replaced regularly to avoid boredom. The right time to replace, as well as which enrichment is suitable to be given, can be determined through an evaluation. At PSO – ARSARI, we are also trying to adhere to the concept above, even if in our sanctuary center is dedicated to unreleaseable male orangutans. The ultimate goal of providing enrichment at PSO is to try to maintain the natural instincts of our adult male orangutans to prepare for the eventuality of them moving to a natural sanctuary island or an artificial island.

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