For two weeks, I helped Wildlife Interns enrich the lives of the felines at Rescate Wildlife Rescue Center. With supervision, Wildlife Interns have observed the cats’ responses to various scents, including cinnamon, horse hair, and sheep droppings.
What is enrichment?
When animals live att Rescate Wildlife Rescue Center, we create plans and activities to promote their psychological well-being. We believe the habitats contribute to the animals’ behavior and can be changed to promote healthier activities…without direct human contact.
To help with this goal, we have an enrichment workshop and a number of different approaches toward changing the animal environment. This can involve introducing eco-friendly objects, new smells, noises, and other sensory experiences. Then, we closely observe and document the animals’ reactions.
What does developing enrichment look like?
In the enrichment workshop, we brainstormed ways of bringing new scents into the margay, ocelot, jaguarundi, and mountain lion habitats.
The enrichment workshop is filled with biodegradable, eco-friendly materials that Rescate Wildlife Interns place in the animal habitats. It’s a great place to experiment with building steps, wheels, and food puzzles for animals to use.
If you enjoy building, the enrichment workshop might become your home away from home!
During the first week, we covered thick, eco-friendly yarn with essential oils to see if the cats would respond to any particular scents. We tested cinnamon and ginger at first. Once the yarn was inside the habitat, we observed how each cat reacted. The margays played with the yarn just like you would expect a cat to! Wildlife Interns documented the experience in a ledger.
For the second week, we collected animal hair and droppings to see if the cats had a preference. The mountain lions seemed to enjoy the sheep droppings and went so far as to roll in them!
Popsicles For Cats
Because it was a very hot day, we also created popsicles for the cats…with meat. This involved combining meat with water and freezing the treats for the animals to enjoy. Costa Rica can get hot, and everyone enjoys a yummy way to cool off.
Why do we do this kind of enrichment? Learning what each cat reacts to and enjoys can help create a more enjoyable habitat for them. This can help us learn more about the residents of Rescate Wildlife Rescue Center and their preferences. When animals cannot live in the wild for health or behavioral reasons, the next best thing is to create the most engaging natural habitat possible.
Are you interested in enriching the lives of the felines here at Rescate Wildlife Rescue Center in La Garita, Costa Rica?
Let us know if you’d like to be a Wildlife Intern, and when you can join us!