Ice floe feeder
Graham Law, Andrew Kitchener, and Roseanne Law
Graham Law, Andrew Kitchener, and Roseanne Law

Bowls of fish on a weighted pivot system for orcas to simulate the wave feeding behaviour of their wild counterparts.

enrichment CATEGORIES



Novel, cooperative task



Novel presentation of food


Cooperation with conspecifics

Physical Habitat

Surface structure

Time to make




1. Materials used should be suitable for use in marine conditions and with orcas. 


1. Create counterweight with a suitable amount of ballast to retain ice floe in level position (some advice from a marine engineer might be of value in assessing this).

2. Secure/anchor eyelet in ballast

3. Build ice floe

4. Attach and seal ice floe to counterweight (see diagram)

5. Insert and secure fish basins

6. Secure tether to eyelet on ice floe and attach to gantry of moveable arm on pool side – that will allow it to be held in position in free water.


The whole concept could be constructed from appropriate wood, metal, heavy duty plastic, glass-fibre (as long as it is robust and cannot harm the Orcas). Or, with the relevant skills in mould-making most of the components could be made from glass fibre or a high-density foam (which would also allow for making more than one). Or, commissioned/sponsorship sought, from a commercial specialist e.g. Thomas Fibreglass Technology:

It would need to be tethered from above to keep it in a suitable free-water position for the behaviour to be successfully undertaken.

The size of the ice floe should be appropriate to the size/number of Orcas involved.

If captive average male 6.6m and average female 5.5m then not too small as it would be too easy to tip by individuals. Maybe around 3.5m wide. 

Research articles

Great news- this IdeaBox item has an associated published paper! Read more about this ideas and further discussions on killer whale enrichment by clicking the following link, and get in touch with us if you'd like a copy. 

Law, G., & Kitchener, A. C. (2017). Environmental enrichment for Killer whales Orcinus orca at zoological institutions: untried and untested. International Zoo Yearbook, 51(1), 232-247.


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© 2017-20 Isabella Clegg

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