Loriinae Exotics - Environmental Enrichment

Environmental Enrichment

Blue-crowned Lories in hollowed palm logEnvironmental enrichment is a term used within the zoo community to describe an important aspect of captive animal husbandry. By definition, environmental enrichment is the provision of stimuli which promotes the expression of a species' appropriate behavioral and mental activities in an under-stimulating environment. In effect, enrichment activities encourage an animal's natural behavior and make its life in captivity more interesting, active and fun. Environmental enrichment aims to provide captive animals with a stimulating environment full of behavioral opportunities which are similar to those found by their wild counterparts.

Forsten's Lorikeet playing with toysKeeping this in mind, enrichment activities should be designed to improve the welfare of the birds by reducing the levels of abnormal/ injurious behavior while maintaining natural and instinctual behaviors, such as increasing exercise, satisfying behavioral needs and optimizing the level of stimulation. Additionally, in breeding animals, environmental enrichment should stimulate social interactions and promote normal development.

Dusky Lories Playing on branchDue to their active and playful nature, enriching the lives of captive lories is quite simple. Lories are extremely inquisitive and will investigate almost anything novel that is put into their enclosure. Essentially, there are two categories of enrichment - enrichment with food items and enrichment with non-food items. Occasionally, items can fall into both categories depending on how individual birds interact with those items.

Enrichment using food items is the easiest way to provide enrichment to lories, since they are being fed on a daily basis anyway. Simply offering regular food items in a new or novel way can be a form of enrichment. A good example is feeding pureed fruits and vegetables if the birds are normally fed chopped or skewering fruit chunks, or vice versa. Additionally, regular food items can be offered whole instead of prepared. Watching a pair of lories devour an entire ear of corn or an apple is a real treat, plus it keeps the birds busy for hours. Food items that are completely new and have never been seen by the birds, or are only seasonally available, can be highly enriching. Here in Houston, palm fruits, figs and loquats grow quite well. When the fruits begin to ripen on the trees, we offer them to the lories.

Red Lories eating Hibiscus flowerFlowers are also a perfect form of enrichment for lories, since they naturally feed on the nectar and pollen. Adding flowers to the lories' diet not only provide a natural food source, but it also maintains the natural feeding behaviors that are often lost by feeding from a bowl. When feeding flowers, it is important to make sure that they are non-toxic. Occasionally, two different flowers may have the same common name, so knowing taxonomic names of the non-toxic flowers is crucial.   For lists of popular edible (non-toxic) flowers and known toxic flowers, click here.

Yellow-bibbed Lory playing with toysHiding favorite food items is another great way to simulate a lorikeet's natural foraging behavior. In the wild, these birds spend hours searching for food sources. In captivity, however, they rarely need to look for their next meal. By placing food items in small cardboard boxes, for example, the bird is encouraged to look for its food and then tear into the box to obtain it (this may not work on some of the smaller, less destructive species - always make sure the birds are consuming their diet).

Green-naped Lorikeet bathing in dishToys are probably the number one favorite non-food enrichment item for lories. They will play with almost anything. Swings are excellent because they are not only fun to play with, but they strengthen the birds' muscles during use. We try to include some kind of swing in every one of our cages. Wood, leather and sisal rope toys are also a big hit. The birds love to tear and shred the sisal rope and the wood and leather is perfect for keeping the beak in good condition.

Fresh cut branches with leaves, buds and flowers is another great example of using non-food items for enrichment. The lories love to chew on the branches, especially when they are wet - they will roll around in the wet leaves until every bit of moisture is off the leaves and in their feathers.