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Environmental Enrichment

In the wild, every day brings new and exciting things to explore. New territories with unexplored streams, unique rock ledges, and a variety of birds and insects to chase and eat.

Even the most enriched life in captivity pales in comparison to living a natural life in the wild.

Captive primates need daily enrichment items and activities to keep them mentally stimulated. Without adequate stimulation they often become neurotic, depressed and dangerous.

So, how do we keep the monkeys at OPR mentally stimulated?

We enjoy helping our Non-human primate friends thrive through creative enrichment and care. While not the wild challenges that they deserve, OPR volunteers and caretakers strive to find and create enrichment toys and activities that will keep the monkeys curious, interested, and entertained. It’s so rewarding to watch the monkeys enjoy various enrichment toys or activities while they their days at OPR!

Enrichment Toys

Safety is always an important factor when designing enrichment toys and devices. Monkeys are like inquisitive toddlers and can get their hands, fingers, or other body parts stuck in the most unique places!

Special care is taken to make sure the items we provide are durable and safe for the monkeys. Any hole sizes on toys or other items provided to the monkeys are designed to be larger than a monkey’s finger and smaller than a monkey’s hand. This prevents them from getting fingers or hands stuck in any device!

Enrichment Activities

Enrichment can also include activities such as watching a movie, or hearing and smelling popcorn being popped, and then eating some! Playing in the water running from a hose, or going for a swim in the pool are great summer activities. In the summer we often times make ‘monkey pops’ where containers are filled with various nuts and fruits, covered with water and frozen!

Blowing bubbles for the monkeys to chase and pop during the winter is a great form of indoor enrichment! Or giving them crickets or meal worms in clear containers with tight fitting lids provides not only fun, but a tasty snack when they remove the lids!

Monkeys enjoy looking through and tearing up magazines with a lot of colored photos, snuggling in warm polar fleece blankets, or grooming teddy bears!

We are always thinking of new enrichment ideas to keep the monkeys entertained!

Change the scenery

Environmental enrichment is more than just toys and activities. Monkeys yearn for opportunities to explore and experience new things every day. Being kept in the same unchanged cage day after day without adequate enrichment can cause severe depression & anxiety, which can lead to aberrant and often times self destructive behavior

For this reason, the caretakers of OPR frequently move monkeys and change the items in the enclosures to create variety and offer new and exciting challenges.

Monkeys love water

In the wild, macaque monkeys enjoy playing in water. They leap from tree branches, cliffs and ledges into lakes, streams and even the ocean, where they can cool off in hot weather, and search for shellfish and other aquatic enrichment. OPR’s outdoor enclosures offer a bit of that fun with slides and pools for water enrichment opportunities.

Special Note on

Enrichment Items or activities considered safe and successful for one monkey may be unsafe or unsuccessful for another!

While one may benefit greatly from having a stuffed teddy bear, another may not even touch it, or another may tear it apart and eat the stuffing, which could create a medical emergency! One monkey may enjoy hearing corn being popped, but another may be frightened from the popping sound! Getting to know each individual is critically important in designing a safe and successful enrichment program for each individual monkey!

Favorite enrichment products from Bio-Serv
(great gift ideas!)

In the wild, the sky is the limit for endless acrobatic exploration and play.
It is the “Freedom place” where primates were meant to live out their
lives and to flourish. – Polly Schultz