Feeding Enrichment

In the wild many animals spend most of their waking time searching for, manipulating or eating food. There can be minimal opportunities for foraging in captive environments as it is prepared and processed by zoo keepers. Feeding enrichment generally aims to extend the feeding experience by making it more difficult for the animal to find or acquire. Feeding enrichment is possibly the easiest and most commonly used form of enrichment used in zoos.

Live feed (insects)

These are suitable for all insectivorous animals such as lizards, dunnarts, frogs and meerkats. These provide a fresh source of food that requires active searching and catching by the animal. This is a great way to provide exercise and avoid boredom. Live insects need to be monitored to ensure that they are all eaten and do not breed up in the enclosure, becoming a hazard.

Scatter feeding

These are suitable for primate species. Food is hidden in the substrate on the ground or scattered through mesh of indoor enclosures. This is a useful way to provide enrichment to the animals. It will increase foraging time and is also appealing to visitors. Scatter feeding outdoors can be a problem if it attracts mice and rats.


This is suitable for all carnivores. It is usually a mammal carcass ranging in size from rodent to horse. The carcass includes bone and skin. Some organs such as the intestines are removed beforehand if the carcass is not fresh. This can stimulate the animal by providing a food puzzle as well as improving dental hygiene. Carrion may need to be provided in conjunction with educational signage so as not to upset visitors.

Branch Feeding

This is suitable for large cats. Carcasses or food is placed on higher branches within the enclosure. This provides exercise for the animals, but can confuse some that are not used to being fed in this manner.


This is suitable for some primates such as monkeys, koalas, parrots and hoof stock. Can be used for various reasons such as a food source or tool in the case of primates. Browse needs to be fresh so availability will be seasonal. Collecting browse can take up a great deal of keeper time. Keepers need to be familiar with the appropriate browse for different species to avoid poisoning.

Hand Feeding

This is suitable for penguins in aquariums and zoos. Hand feeding is done by keepers to ensure that all animals are fed and to make the penguins more comfortable with the presence of keepers. Hand feeding is particularly important when feeding supplemented fish. Supplemented fish should not be put directly into water.

Food Icy Poles

These can be used for a variety of species. Seals have been provided with fish in ice blocks to provide enrichment. Frozen fruit blocks provide texture and visual variety for primates, tapirs and giraffes among others. This form of enrichment is popular in warmer weather.

Varied Diet

This is suitable for most captive animals. Nectar-feeding birds can be given fruits, seeds and insects. This provides nutritional balance for birds and enables them to use their feet and beaks to manipulate food which they would not do with nectar only. Other omnivorous mammal and reptile species can be provided with varied diets that are scattered throughout the enclosure. This will promote foraging and provide stimulation for the animal.

Puzzle Feeder

These are used to provide behavioural enrichment for a range of animals.  Puzzle feeders can take a range of shapes and sizes such as swinging puzzle boxes for gibbons and monkeys and hand-held food puzzles for some monkeys (not Macaques).

Maze Feeder 

These are suitable for highly intelligent primates such as chimpanzees. Food is placed at the top and chimps manipulate it through the maze with a stick. These mazes require coordination and problem-solving skills.

Foraging Trough

This is suitable for parrots. A foraging trough is a long tray which is hung high or affixed to a wall. It is filled with various foods such as seeds, nuts, fruit and bark.  The depth and shape of the trough can be varied to create more of a challenge to parrots.

Real Learning

Learn about caring for pets, animals in zoos, or for conservation with an ACS course. Our courses range from introductory courses to more advanced qualifications, such as the Advanced Certificate In Zoo Keeping. Courses can be studied for personal interest or for professional and career development in fields such as zoo keeping, animal health care centres, safari or wildlife parks, rescue centres, or in animal conservation. Our courses are written and taught by tutors with decades of real world employment experience. You study ny distance learning with their guidance and support.

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