Primate Forest Enrichment

Here at Primate Forest, the animals receive a lot of enrichment.  Enrichment can be anything that stimulates the animal’s mind or increases activity and species-appropriate behaviors.  The purpose of enrichment is to create opportunities for the primates to be engaged in more naturalistic behaviors and to allow them to make choices throughout their day so that they have control over their environment and activities.  For example, of course a monkey would not have a mega block Lego® in the wild, but when the keepers freeze fruit/vegetable blends into the Lego ®, the monkeys have to pick down into the crevices of the Lego® for the food.  Sometimes, this keeps them busy for hours.  This behavior mimics a similar behavior of picking through the bark on trees for insects, or opening up a fruit.  The color of the Lego® is also stimulating, as would be a brightly colored flower or insect in the wild. 

Animal Behavior interns help the keepers make food enrichment, such as:  oatmeal wreathes, treat-stuffed items (boxes, bottles, balls, paper towel tubes), frozen ice treats, food-smeared pinecones and Legos®, paper mache boards, etc.).  The keepers at Primate Forest are regularly changing the enclosure furniture and pathways as well.  We change the locations of hanging ropes and fire hose pathways to provide a dynamic environment where the animals must think about how to get to a desired location!  We are constantly moving barrels, hammocks, and platforms around the exhibit, and continue to make new ones too.  This way, the primate has to move a different way through the exhibit, or look for food in new hiding places. 

Below are some examples of enrichment at Primate Forest:

The YouTube video below has two segments. The first shows young Colobus monkeys playing in a new rope cargo net. The second segment shows young swamp monkeys playing in a plastic pool. Watch the monkey on the right start trouble by mischieviously spitting water!


Young swamp monkey foraging through rocks and dirt for small food items and insects.

Young lemurs playing in a hanging planter basket.

Francois Langur foraging through a paper mache board.

Female lemur holding a pinecone with cooked yam.

Colobus monkey with leftover Halloween pumpkin.

Lemur getting food out of a shape sorter.

Female gibbon getting food out of a paper mache egg during our Animal Egg Hunt event.

Young swamp monkey retrieving food from a container.

Francois Langur foraging through a paper mache heart at our Vanimaltine’s Day event.

Photos / videos by Kate Clifton, Koral Stoddard, Andi Norman, and Kandace York