EleFact Friday: Sanctuary Enrichment

Guillermina shows off her trunkHere at Elephant Sanctuary Brazil, we do our best to provide our residents with the most natural life possible, allowing them to explore the habitats and take in all the wonders of the environment around them. Recently, we’ve received some questions about enrichment. For instance, why do other sanctuaries provide their elephants (or other animals) with ‘toys’ or other activities and we don’t? For today’s EleFACT, we’ll explain a bit further! 

The true textbook definition of enrichment is ‘the action of improving or enhancing the quality or value of something.” In terms of sanctuary, enrichment can be used to keep elephants stimulated when they are not in a natural environment. In our previous experience, enrichment tools are useful if elephants need to be brought inside when temperatures drop, in an effort to keep their minds busy when the outside, natural environment is not suitable. But during warmer months when the elephants had significant space to explore with other elephants, enrichment was ignored and went unused. When we first opened Elephant Sanctuary Brazil and Maia and Guida were our only residents, we used enrichment tools because the space they had was limited to the initial first yard. 

Things have changed for us here and, in the current state of our sanctuary, we believe that it is far more important to provide the elephants with a healthy environment, the choice to explore where they wish, and the ability to spend time with one another and create friendships than with balls, ropes in trees, or other ‘toys.’ We are grateful for the expansion of our space and the natural elements that provide plenty of mental, emotional, and physical stimulation for the elephants here. As the comparison has been lovingly made, providing Rana with a ball to play within the habitat would be like giving a 13-year-old human a 12 piece puzzle – it just wouldn’t compare or be stimulating in the way that she would need, especially when there are far more exciting things around her to explore with her sanctuary sisters. If there were an instance where we felt traditional enrichment would be beneficial to a specific individual in a specific scenario, we would indeed use it. We don’t have a negative view of enrichment; in many scenarios it can be beneficial. It’s just not something that would have any sort of positive impact right now.  

The ability to provide these elephants with natural stimulation, a gorgeous environment, and the companionship of a herd-like structure would not be possible without the help of our supporters. We are thankful every day for the life that we live and the life we get to provide for the elephants here and those to come in the future.

Photo of elephant Guillermina reaching out with her trunk


  1. REPLY
    Carey says

    Spot on!

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