Welcome Back Lou From Australia

We receive a lot of visitors all year round, but there are encounters that last much more than an holiday tour. It is the seventh time that Lou, a zoo keeper from Australia, is coming to EPRC after she discovered the center in 2004. Lou decided she wanted to help our project and we thought our keepers could greatly benefit from her professional experience. Last year she gave them a lesson about animal training which was very funny and interactive! This time she brought three other zoo related people with her to teach our staff how to make good enrichment.

For those who are not familiar with it, what we call behavioral or environmental enrichment is the idea of providing species-appropriate stimulation to encourage the animals to express their natural behavior. In captivity, enrichment is a dynamic process which can include making changes to their habitat, stimulating their senses or social interactions, creating toys to keep them active… Providing an environment where they can make choices and regularly experience novelty!

Our primates are curious, playful and complex animals who need quite a lot of intellectual stimulation to prevent boredom and reduce stress caused by captivity. In the wild, they would also search and forage for food, so we began to make enrichment tools with food rewards inside. By finding the way to access the food they can actually improve their problem-solving skills and get better prepared for release.

Enrichment and training have become a normal routine in most western zoos, and even the highlight of a keeper’s day…! But here in Vietnam it is still perceived as a superficial practice and people often don’t know how essential it is to animals welfare.

So the Australian keepers came up with a really original idea to increase awareness among our Vietnamese staff. First they taught them how to think a little bit harder about creative enrichment tools, showing different techniques and tricks… and then came the fun part! They brought some rewards  with them: T-shirts, candies, lollipops… and hid them everywhere: some items were hung up high in the trees or on the house roof so that our keepers either had to climb up, use a ladder or a bamboo stick to get it. Some others were hidden inside boxes or wrapped up with leaves, some boxes were filled with grass but with nothing inside.

It made the keepers foraging for a while, thinking about how to get the items they wanted, using tools or helping each other. Most of all it made them have a lot of fun and good laugh! We hope everyone in EPRC will continue to do their best to keep our primates busy, happy and healthy!

We want to thank our Australian friends Lou, Graeme, Bec and Claire for their great generosity, not only they came as volunteer teachers but they offered all these nice presents for each of our thirty keepers. It was a pleasure having you here!




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