Environmental enrichment is a relatively new concept that all the zoos should have currently. There are two main reasons for animals in the wild to be moving and walking a long part of the day: hunting or looking for food and escape from predators. Animals in controled enviroments have their food colocated everydays on their enclosure and, obviously, they don't have predators. That is the reason because we should encourage their movement somehow. One of the most important and necessary enrichment is to distribute every days the food of the animals all around the whole enclosure, instead of put it together on the same point. With gorillas in captivity it is not different; they should have encouragements to keep them entertained the most time as posible.
Toys related to environmental enrichment
Food hoses:fire hoses cutten of ≈ 30 cm, stuffed of food and capped with hard fruit on both sides. You can use compote of fruits, porridge or any kind of goody that they really like. You can put honey in very small amounts too as they usually love it to give the hoses smell. The fruit used on the sides should be hard to hinder the exit of the food: carrots, apples... To finish, you should prepare at least three hoses for each two gorillas.
Iron ball: this simple enrichment consists on a hollow ball built with iron bars. You can open it and introduce any kind of food as always as it is bigger than the gap between the bars: lettuces, apples... You should be very sure that the ball is very good closed to avoid gorillas to be able to open it.
Ice cream: in summer periods, when the weather is very
hot, it is very common to give to a lot of zoo animals ice creams to get
freshen, and with gorillas it is not different. It is posible to give
them ice creams of very different sizes. You can put inside it some
fruit pieces or bamboo leaves. You can also use compote of fruit. As a
detail, remember to give gorillas more ice creams than the number of
members of the group to avoid any
Cardboard box: there are many different ways to complicate
to gorillas the access to the food. Here we present you another one by
using cardboard boxes. Inside the boxes there should be fruit, bamboo or
even ice cream (anything that they like and enjoy eating). You can also
seal the boxes and make holes on them; depending on the character of
the gorilla, they will try to break them or use the holes to take out
Feeding tube: this is another way to complicate
the gorillas the access to the food. This environmental enrichment
consists on using a plastic tube on which there are small pieces of
fruit inside. The tube is wounded on itself and suspended by a rope from
a branch. Depending on the character of the gorillas, they will try to
take out the fruit carefully or they will directly break and bite the tube to get it.
Enclosure design related to environmental enrichment
Artificial termite mound:
this is a very tipical enrichment used for great apes in general. It consists on an artificial structure imitating a termite mound with some
narrow holes. Inside it, the keeper can put porridge, compote of fruits
or honey. You should provide the gorillas with sticks, which they will introduce into the holes to impregnate and lick them.
as same as the termite mound, this is an environmental enrichment used
in most zoos for primates and more particular for great apes.
consists on providing gorillas of a high place to stay at and rest
there. It may be done with ropes or fabric ribbons (as seen on the
picture on the left) or with fire hoses. In the first case, the hammock
can get finish off by sewing it. In the second case, you can use screws,
as always as you remove the tips hitting them.
Finally, the hammock should be hanging from very strong structures that support the weight of the animals.
in the wild, gorillas (and in special western lowland gorillas) like to
get wet sometimes in lakes or lagunes they find on their habitats. That
is the reason because zoo enclosure should be provided with waterfalls
and lakes or lagoons. If not, there is a solution, as shown in this picture, using a wash tub.