At Assiniboine Park Zoo, we remain committed to providing the highest standards of care for all our animal residents, including our majestic polar bears. Enrichment plays a crucial role in providing them with stimulating experiences, promoting natural behaviours, and ultimately enhancing their overall quality of life.

What is Enrichment?

Enrichment encompasses a variety of activities and items designed to stimulate an animal's senses, encourage natural behaviours, and promote physical and mental well-being. At our Zoo, we have a comprehensive enrichment program tailored to the specific needs of each species, including our polar bears.

Types of Enrichment

Our enrichment program for polar bears includes five main categories:

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Sensory Enrichment: This involves providing items that engage the bears' senses, such as scent, visual, auditory, and tactile stimulation. For example, we offer peacock feathers and furs from other Zoo animals to stimulate their sense of smell and touch.

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Dietary Enrichment: We present food in creative ways to encourage natural foraging behaviours. This may include offering produce cut into small pieces or frozen treats made from pureed yam and carrot.

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Social Enrichment: Polar bears are social animals, so we provide opportunities for interactions with our Animal Care Team and occasionally introduce changes in group dynamics to keep them engaged. Training sessions also provide mental stimulation and opportunities for socialization.

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Cognitive Enrichment: We present puzzles or challenges that require problem-solving skills, such as hiding food inside puzzle feeders or introducing new objects for them to investigate.

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Environmental Enrichment: This involves making changes to the bears' habitat or introducing new items for them to interact with, such as large pieces of furniture or different substrates for nesting.

Ensuring Safety

While providing enrichment, ensuring the safety of our animals is paramount. Polar bears, in particular, are known for their strength and destructiveness, so we carefully select materials that are durable and hard to prevent any accidents or injuries.

Monitoring and Evaluation

We have a systematic approach to monitoring the effectiveness of our enrichment program. This includes observing the bears' interactions with enrichment items, documenting their behaviours, and adjusting the program based on their responses. If an item does not stimulate the bears, we reevaluate and seek alternative enrichment options.

Enrichment is an essential aspect of caring for our polar bears and other Zoo animals. By providing stimulating and enriching experiences, we aim to enhance their physical and mental well-being, promote natural behaviours, and ultimately contribute to their overall quality of life.