One way that zookeepers are helping elephants is through animal enrichment. 

Elephant Enrichment

As you might already know, elephants are large, sociable and intelligent creatures. The elephant habitat in the wild allows them to be continually looking for food, defending their land, taking care of their young or looking for mates. 

In zoos, however, they do not need to worry about these things. The zookeepers provide the food, water and there are no predators.

Elephants need to stay occupied and active to avoid social tension or abnormal behavior. One way that zookeepers are avoiding these issues is through animal enrichment. 

What is animal enrichment?

Animal enrichment is what zookeepers use to allow animals to use their instincts, stay active and take control of their environment. 

This type of opportunity helps fulfill their physical and psychological needs. It allows them to control their environment instead of the usual zookeepers. 

Why is animal enrichment important?

Animal enrichment is critical for animals in zoos because it preserves, encourages and challenges their natural instinct. It gives them a way to express their natural behaviors while in captivity. 

For example, elephants need enrichment to avoid social tension, aggression and abnormal behaviors. If these creatures don’t get the enrichment that they need, they could start to get bored and start “weaving.” This type of behavior is when an animal stays in one spot and starts moving their head from side to side. 

Elephant Enrichment 

As you might already know, elephants are not tiny creatures! These animals are enormous, strong and intelligent. An elephant habitat needs to be a stimulating environment that can help them stay active and not grow bored. Here are some ways that zoos are providing enrichment for elephants. 


Elephants in the wild have lots of space to roam, socialize and forage for food. These animals can travel as much as 195 km per day. In zoos, they have limited space. Zoos are accommodating by creating spaces that resemble their natural environments. 

Experts are designing spacious exhibits, including slopes and topographical variety. Some zoos also offer indoor and outdoor spaces that encourage exercise. Vast areas help elephants stay active and burn calories to stay healthy. 


Elephants run on less sleep than humans. In the wild, they only sleep for two hours every night. While in captivity, they can sleep for three or five hours. What do they do most of the time? Well, they spend most of their time eating. 

Zookeepers are getting creative in ways to allow elephants to get and search for food. They are given bark logs or thick branches that help exercise their excellent motor skills and agility. Another way includes elephants getting bite-sized portions of both thick and thin that help them practice their skills and wear down their back teeth.


The elephant habitat in the wild allows them to stay active by knocking down trees, forage for food, interact with other elephants or dig holes. This enables elephants to use their brain and instincts to solve problems and not grow bored. 

Zookeepers are helping elephants stay active by giving them toys. Elephants are given old tires, barrels, brushes or balls to play and interact. These toys test their strength and problem-solving skills by using their heads, feet or trunks. It also helps them release any aggression they have built inside. 

As much, elephants are one of the most beloved animals in zoos. They are not self-sustaining in zoos. Right now, there is a real possibility of “captive extinction.”

At For Elephants, we are researching to help keep elephants healthy in zoos. We take what we learn and make informed conservation changes to zoos across the United States. You can contribute to our research by making a small donation. Donate today!

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