March 29, 2018

by Ashley Duflo, Sea Lion Sound Keeper

At Sea Lion Sound, enrichment is an essential part of the daily husbandry care of our California sea lions and harbor seals. Multiple types of enrichment are offered daily to provide mental and physical stimulation. There are three different habitats that the animals may move between throughout the day and enrichment is scheduled for each habitat separately. As a result, an animal may encounter many different enrichment items depending on their varying locations. Enrichment at the Zoo is divided into eight different categories: manipulation, visual, tactile, auditory, olfactory, food, social and cognitive. Each day the categories of enrichment offered in the habitats are varied. The animals most frequently will choose to interact with manipulation and food enrichment. Some of their favorite enrichment items include ice, fish cubes and fishsicles, hula hoops, Frisbees, kelp strips and heavy-duty dog toys. “Mr. Skinny Bones,” a PVC skeleton offered around Halloween, is their favorite seasonal enrichment item. The sea lions typically interact with enrichment individually but occasionally you will see them interacting socially, including playing tug-of-war type games. Interns at the Zoo are heavily involved in the enrichment program.  They help collect and distribute enrichment and record daily observations and evaluations. During their internship at the Zoo, interns come up with new enrichment ideas and even create a new enrichment item. We invite you to come visit the animals and keepers at Sea Lion Sound and catch the First Bank Sea Lion show!  Spring Weekend shows start Saturday, March 31.

The Saint Louis Zoo’s enrichment mission is: “To provide the animals in our care with an environment and varying activities that promote a range of species-appropriate behavior, facilitate behavioral choices and enhance individual well-being.”