Animals in captivity don't have to hunt, forage, escape danger, find shelter or search for a mate. But this means it is imperative for caretakers to provide enough stimulation and opportunities to work for food, to fill the animal's day.
Many experts agree that an effective enrichment program is one of the most important factors for good welfare.
The above video shows some artificial plants that have small fish tightly hidden inside. This group of dolphins has even developed a foraging method to get the fish- by beating their tails to waft the fish out. A brilliant example of stimulating enrichment from Kolmårdens Djurpark!
However, if you've worked with animals in captivity, you'll know that providing stimulating enrichment isn't a simple task. Enrichment items and devices need to be safe, variable, novel at times, and tailored to the individual animals. Oh, and records should be taken on the animals' engagement so you can evaluate how successful the item was!
Now submerge yourself into a dolphin's world, and the above tasks have arguably become even harder. What with all the other duties that caretakers have to complete on a daily basis, it can be really hard to find the time to think about, source materials for and build enrichment items.
What is IdeaBox?
AWE's IdeaBox is a catalogue of stimulating enrichment ideas for cetaceans, with accompanying details on how to source, design and build them.
DOES IT INCLUDE ALL ENRICHMENT?
Only innovative and composite items are called for in AWE's IdeaBox. Therefore, while we certainly understand balls and hoops can be enriching for dolphins, we're only looking for devices that are more complex e.g. several items joined together to elicit cognitive challenges, or devices leading to multi-step behaviours. We believe these are the ideas that need sharing!
For all those who submit an enrichment idea and have it approved, the catalogue will be free of charge. This also means that if you submit your idea and its details, you should be aware that any media and information you have given may be shared.
How to Submit an idea
Submitting an idea is easy! Fill out the two page submission form below and send it back to us (email address on the form), then wait for approval. This is a check that nobody has already submitted the idea, and that there is enough evidence to show the item proposed can be made and used by the animals in the described fashion. Once your idea has been added and the collection has been updated our end, we'll send you the catalogue!
Click here to download a PDF with more information on the IdeaBox project, including examples of enrichment we're looking for.
Click here to download the IdeaBox item submission form!