By Lance Miller– January 6, 2011

Environmental enrichment is utilized within zoological institutions to ensure animals are physically and psychologically healthy. The goal of an enrichment program is to promote species-typical behavior while allowing some control for animals within their environment. The Behavioral Biology Division of the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research is currently conducting a research project examining individual and species enrichment preferences for large felids (lions, tigers, and cheetahs) at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park (see post, Big Cat Preferences, Part 2). Based on some preliminary results, we are interested in learning more about different scents (perfumes) that attract the animals and promote the behavior of exploration.

The research project will include examining the behavior of our large felids when presented with a variety of colognes and perfumes. The goal of these scents is to increase our cats’ exploration and activity levels. At the same time, we will send samples of these scents to a chemist to determine their chemical make-up to learn the properties that animals respond to the most. Through this research, we hope to discover the elements of these scents that encourage species-typical behavior so that we can continue to enrich the lives of the animals within our facilities. In addition, information gained from this study can be used to enrich felids at other zoological institutions. With the link between animal welfare and reproductive success, it is important to ensure the highest levels of care for the animals within zoological institutions as many of these species are conservation dependent.

We can’t do this alone. We’re once again calling upon the generosity of our fans and fellow conservationists to help us in this cause by donating old or unused cologne and perfume. If you have colognes and perfumes that you would like to donate to the study, please send them to:

San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research
Attn: Lance Miller
15600 San Pasqual Valley Road
Escondido, California 92027

Thanks so much for your support. Your generosity will improve the lives of our animals and help us work for a better future for the wildlife of our planet!

Lance Miller is a scientist for the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research.