Translating Good Ideas Into a Working Environmental Enrichment

Sue Howell and Jo Fritz
Primate Foundation of Arizona
P. 0. Box 20027
Mesa, AZ 85277-0027

The Primate Foundation of Arizona is home to 80 chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes). Our chimpanzee Wellness Program (detailed in Fritz and Howell 1993) was initiated in 1970 and became a formal written Program in 1991. Environmental enrichment, a cornerstone of the Program, has the general aim of encouraging species-typical behavior. The Program is not static. It is updated as new information becomes available, such as the results of tests on the enrichment potential of new devices.

Ideas originate from all staff members. While some facilities depend on an Enrichment Technician to develop new ideas, we utilize ideas received from all Care and Research Staff. To translate these good ideas into workable processes or the use of devices, we use an INITIAL PROPOSAL FORM to prompt staff members to think through all of the aspects of a new idea. It also allows documentation that a new device or procedure was proposed.

The Research Department also provides information relative to its efficacy as enrichment and any potential for detrimental effects. If information is lacking, and where appropriate, the Research Department designs and implements studies to document the effects and use of the new device or procedure. Devices or procedures may be incorporated into the Program following evaluation and approval by the Staff Veterinarian and Colony Manager. If the device is rejected or the procedure is unworkable, the form also includes the reason for rejection. We keep accurate records of what works, what doesn't, and why.

The INITIAL PROPOSAL FORM can be completed by any staff member (the idea originator). The form prompts you to provide the following information:

The INITIAL PROPOSAL FORM is submitted to the Staff Veterinarian and Colony Manager. They carefully consider health and safety issues, as well as cost/benefit ratios. If their initial review is unfavorable, the reasons are discussed with staff members, documented on the form, and the form is kept on file for future reference. If their initial review is favorable, the INITIAL PROPOSAL FORM is transferred to the Research Department for literature review.

The Research Department is responsible for providing any available literature regarding the efficacy of new devices, observing individuals prior to and following the test use of any new device, and summarizing the results of the findings for review and later publication. The INITIAL RESEARCH REVIEW FORM includes the following:

Information is compiled and, along with the INITIAL PROPOSAL FORM, is submitted to the Director for initial testing approval. If granted, initial testing is coordinated between Care and Research staff. Results of the test data are provided to the Colony Manager, Staff Veterinarian, and Director for review, and posted in the employee lunchroom for staff review. If review is favorable, the device may be approved for colony use. If the review is unfavorable it is documented, and kept on file for future use. In this way, we also use science for the benefit of the animals in our care. Care and Research Staff ideas are well-thought out prior to use of any new devices, and all staff participate in the provision of environmental enrichment to the chimpanzees in our care.

Fritz, J. and Howell, S. Psychological wellness for captive chimpanzees: An evaluative program. Humane and Innovative Alternatives 7:426-434, 1993.

Reprinted with permission of the Editor of The Newsletter.