Environmental enrichment is the process of providing stimulating environments for animals in order for them to demonstrate their typical/natural species behavior; it can include the introduction of food related items such as like puzzle feeders and hidden food and to get the food the animals have to work and use natural foraging behaviors.
What GVI have provided for our three youngest elephants (Pbee Mai, Mario, and LuLu) are puzzle feeders. Three large blue barrels were purchased and each barrel has a different pattern of holes drilled into the sides. The purpose of the holes are for the elephants to figure out a way to maneuver their trunks in through the holes as a way to reach their food; instead of having food set out right in front of them. One of the barrels has rope twisted around the top of the barrel and the rope serves the same purpose as the holes drilled in the sides. As of now, only two calves have a barrel each day; one of the barrels is being saved to be filled with popcorn.
Eventually, the plan is to add more, and different, types of enrichments for the calves to use while in the village. What is beneficial about this new project is volunteers have the opportunity to come up with ideas that could potentially make a difference on Pbee Mai, Mario and LuLu and an unexpected benefit of the enrichment for the calves is the extra interaction volunteers get with them.
Volunteers are collecting data on the enrichment where three times a week, they are allocated an elephant to watch for one hour and recording any stereotypical behavior they elephants are showing and timing how long it lasts for and timing how long they are not showing signs of this behavior. Intensity of the stereotypical behavior will also be recorded and volunteers will be watching and recording how the elephants react without enrichment to enable the results to be compared.
Thank you for your continuing support for this project
GVI Chiang Mai Team