Tuite, E. K., Moss, S. A., Phillips, C. J. et al. 2022. Why are enrichment practices in zoos difficult to implement effectively? Animals 12(5), 554.
The good intentions of zoos to introduce enrichment practices that stimulate animals mentally and physically are not always achievable. Changes to the policies and procedures in organisations are difficult to fulfil for a range of reasons frequently investigated in change management literature. The implementation of these changes can be the source of ineffective attempts to generate positive interventions in organisations. In this study, we investigate whether interventions to improve animal management in zoos through enrichment are subject to implementation impediments. Qualitative data gathered from interviews with 23 keepers working with big cats across 12 zoos globally provided valuable insights into the barriers and enablers to the implementation of enrichment. Keepers participated voluntarily and worked in accredited zoos across Australia, New Zealand, Europe, south-east Asia, South Africa, and the United States of America. Thematic analysis of the data revealed five key themes that described some of the challenges zoos and keepers experience when implementing enrichment for big cats, in their words: “let’s just be cautious”, “purely surviving”, “struggle to understand the goal”, “can’t always provide what you should”, and “judge the effectiveness”. These themes provide additional insights into potential areas for improvement, including greater attention to the benefits of enrichment for animal mental health and increased transparency around enrichment objectives in zoos.