A day in my life as a volunteer creating enrichment, by Summer Hales
One of the most important tasks while caring for animals is creating new and creative enrichment for them. Enrichment is used to enhance the life of the animal. There are different types of enrichment, these include food, cognitive, visual, olfactory.
Other ways of enriching the lives of the animals is housing them with other animals of the same species; and making the enclosures as enriching as possible. This can be done by replicating their wild environment and providing items such as climbing frames, ropes, platforms, wooden beams, and hammocks, that are semi-permanently in the enclosure (they are changed regularly to ensure that they remain enriching).
After training from the experienced caregivers, it is the job of the volunteer to create, provide and evaluate enrichment. The creating part is a fun, but also messy job. Especially when trying to get mashed potatoes into thin, long tubes for the Chimpanzees! This job involves adding food to enrichment that has already been created, as well as creating new enrichment. The caregivers are also open to new ideas that will keep the primate's lives enriched.
The primates at AAP Primadomus have all been rescued, so haven't had the best start in life and definitely not an enriching one, this makes providing them with enrichment all the more important.
Personally, one of the best parts of working with animals is watching them interact with their enrichment, especially when it allows them to display natural behaviours. One of my favourite memories of primates with enrichment at AAP Primadomus is when I gave the Marmosets cardboard tubes with straw and rice inside. In the wild Marmosets will forage through natural substrates to find food, including insects, so this enrichment is a great way to stimulate the marmosets to display this natural behaviour. The rice is also a great source of carbohydrates for them.
Other example of enrichment that we provide for the primates at Primadomus are, scattering seeds for the Barbary Macaques, this encourages them to forage which is a behaviour seen in the wild. Also, blanket parcels for the Chimpanzees. This is great enrichment for the Chimpanzees because it means they have to figure out how to get the knots untied and how to get the food out. As an added bonus, they use the blankets afterwards as nesting material.
Summer Hales, volunteer in AAP Primadomus