Jacksonville Zoo and GardensJacksonville Zoo and Gardens

Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens

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Behavior Husbandry

Gorilla with Enrichment
Keepers provided a male western lowland
gorilla with a box full of toys and treats
to keep him busy.
Photo by Tracy Williams

Zoo animals require much more from their keepers than just daily cleaning and feeding. A revolution of sorts beginning in the 1980’s has led zoo professionals to closely consider how captive environments affect their animal’s mental, as well as physical health. Animal exhibits and enclosures that are sterile and boring to the animals are gone from AZA accredited zoos.

Elephant with Enrichment
African elephant manipulates
a feeding device to make
the food fall out. After the food
is gone, it is used as a toy
that encourages natural behaviors.
Photo by Brett Smith

Behavior husbandry is a relatively new trend in the zoo world, but is quickly becoming a standard feature of animal management. The goals of our Behavior Husbandry (BH) program at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens are to facilitate animal husbandry and veterinary care, to address animal psychological and physiological well being, to meet and exceed federal regulations, to improve staff safety, and to enhance staff experience, education programs, and public relations. We utilize a number of different strategies in conjunction with one another in order to accomplish these goals, but enrichment and training are the two major tools for behavior husbandry.