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Shona McGill, CTC’s Aquarist, has been working on behavioral enrichment – that is, ways and means of making a turtle’s life more interesting. One of several ways being explored is to make a kind of huge, floating vegetarian ‘popsicle’ for the turtles – a big cylinder of frozen vegetables!
“Behavioral enrichment is very important to all captive animals as it plays a major role in enhancing their welfare. Behavioral enrichment is mainly used by zoological institutions in order to allow an animal to act out natural behaviors that it would in the wild, in order to reduce the frequency of stereotypes and unwanted behaviors. Each enrichment technique needs to be tailored to a specific individual or a specific species based on their behavioral profiles,” she explained.
“The main reason we chose an ice block feeder for the turtles in the swimming lagoon was to enhance feeding enrichment and behavior. The ice block allows turtles to act out natural feeding behavior that they would in the wild. Another reason for the ice block is to increase locomotion of our turtles. Since they get fed from the bridge, many turtles spend their time around that area throughout the day, resting in the fake coral at the bottom of the lagoon. Using floating enrichment should increase locomotion of those turtles. This also acts as a great display to visitors who are able to observe the enrichment.
“Also, the fake coral in the lagoon allows the turtles to act out natural behavior of scratching their carapace to remove parasites, such as barnacles. The fish in the lagoon is also behavioral enrichment as it is similar to a wild green sea turtles’ environment. The algae around the lagoon also acts as enrichment as turtles forage on that, similar to in the wild.”