Erie Zoo News & Updates

Summertime Enrichment

Posted on July 7th, 2023 at 10:19 AM

In the summer, when things get hot, the Erie Zoo adjusts some of our typical enrichment activities for our animals to help them beat the heat and have some fun in the sun! What is enrichment (one may ask)? Enrichment is a practice that zoos across the globe use to stimulate the minds of our animals and enrich their lives. This practice encourages our animals to use their natural behaviors and instincts, such as rooting for pigs or climbing and foraging for primates. At a foundational look, enrichment typically includes giving the animals something new in their habitat to explore; zookeepers will add different scents for them to smell, new toys to explore, varying substrates to interact with, and presenting their food in novel ways. This practice is proven to positively affect the psychology of animals living in a zoo setting.


In the summertime, enrichment practices adjust to the warm weather and zookeepers find creative ways that they can use this practice to assist our animals in keeping cool and enjoying this wonderful season. Dasa and Otis, our Bornean orangutans, periodically receive a familiar summer treat that you and I most likely will enjoy ourselves—they are given snow cones from our concession stands that help them cool down on a hot summer’s day!


On the other hand, some of our predators enjoy a treat that many of us would quickly pass up if offered. Big cats, such as our Amur leopards, Amur tigers, African lionesses, and even our Eurasian lynx, are given blood popsicles to beat the heat! These frozen snacks are great for our predators not only because it cools them down but also gives them an enrichment experience that is perfect for their species. Many of the other zoo inhabitants are given frozen treats of their own throughout the summer months. The animal care team will freeze some of their daily diet in cubes, so the animals cool down while solving their frozen food puzzle. Our goats and sheep even get frozen molasses to enjoy!


All of our animals adjust well to the heat, but it is especially important to keep our cold-weather animals as comfortable as possible in these warm months. The red pandas, for example, have thick coats that keep them warm in the winter, but in the summer, we equip their enclosures with misters that allow them to cool down when needed. On very hot days, many of these animals are given access to their indoor enclosure so they can cool down. Marble slabs are kept in the freezer, affectionately deemed “chinchillers”, to cool down some of our smaller animals, such as our prehensile-tailed porcupines, rabbits, and chinchillas. These slabs are great to lay on when the sun is getting a little too toasty for their liking.


The Zoo is always looking for fun, engaging, and creative ways to practice enrichment for all our species. Each animal has a specific enrichment plan tailored to their species that the zookeepers follow daily, and our volunteers at the Erie Zoo greatly contribute to the enrichment resources that we have to keep our animal’s minds and bodies active and entertained throughout the day. Learn more about the Erie Zoo enrichment program, and how you can actively contribute to it by visiting! Enjoy this July and share with us how you beat this heat this summer by tagging us @eriezoo on Facebook or Instagram!