Plants for Enrichment

Plants form the matrix within which animals live. In the wild, plants provide animals with food and shelter and largely determine their natural behaviour. How does this work for animals in captivity?
Enrichment is often described as a dynamic process in which animals’ environments are improved in the context of their biological behaviour and natural history. Adaptations in housing structures or husbandry practices can give animals more choices and allow them to exhibit more species-specific behaviour. The most important goal of enhancement is to improve the general welfare of animals in captivity by improving their physical and psychological well-being.

Often, animal enclosures include plants, yet plants (or parts of plants) are not employed specifically for enrichment. An extensive article by Frediani (2009) discusses the many ways in which plants can be perceived. Auditory, visual, olfactory and tactile stimuli are reviewed, as well as the manner in which plants can be used for determining location and time. In addition, benefits of using plants instead of artificial structures are named: one example is providing climbing materials (regenerative, soft, dynamic, and relatively inexpensive).
The author of the article makes a case for more conscious use of (parts of) plants for the purpose of enhancement for animals in captivity. It is possible to put the examples described in the article to use immediately.

FREDIANI, Kevin (2009). Exploring the Potential for Plant Based Enrichment. Presentation at the Ninth International Conference on Environmental Enrichment. Torquay.