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Last updated : 01/04/2007

This page is indexed on our home page under Aspect: 20. Enrichment for Reptiles and the Section: 1. Overview

Enrichment 101

This is the first "lesson" on Reptile Enrichment

A good family friend, Matthew van Lierop, who I have known since childhood is very experienced in enrichment activities that he applied at Johannesburg Zoo with primates and other animals. I thought, "why not apply the same principles to the reptiles that we keep. Are they that less intelligent than primates that they would not enjoy some sort of stimulation and activity such as hunting for their food?"

Now the immediate thought is that we would prefer our reptiles to be docile and not to be in the hunt mode as most of us do not like to get bitten on the hand nose or anywhere else for that matter.

Then I thought of Steve Irwin and how he carries on with his Crocs. Is this not what enrichment is about or is this just showman ship that the fascinates the public and as far as the reptiles are concerned they just think, "Wait, I will catch you one day soon!". I think that for crocs, who in their natural environment have to hunt for their food, that this practice is important stimulation for them.

Anyway I started a little research project. Basically, an enrichment program aims to "stimulate captive animals and ensure that they live in a less stressed environment." When animals are free from stress, they do not manifest aberrant behavior, they breed better, are more active, and are mentally and physically healthier.

Ok so the next step was to do some research on "enrichment for reptiles" on the internet and believe it or not I got quite a few hits, so the idea is not as wild as what I thought it may be.

However, this extract I found encapsulates the situation with regard to reptiles.


Ohio State University, College of Veterinary Medicine

Mentor: Dr. Thomas Wittum

Behavioral Enrichment for Captive Reptiles and Amphibians

Behavioral enrichment methods have been implemented in zoos with great success in reducing many repetitive behaviors while increasing healthy physical activity. Although well documented for mammals, there is a disturbing lack of data on behavioral enhancement for reptiles and amphibians. Kelly Fletcher will be taking a survey of 33 zoos to determine what level of behavioral enrichment exists for reptiles and amphibians. Survey results will be used to advise owners of captive reptiles and amphibians about how they can provide behavioral enrichment thereby increasing the humane treatment of these sometimes over-looked animals.

full content of artcile


In this section we have provided links to further reading and our practice notes. Please feel free to submit your articles for publication here, about enrichment practices that you have applied with your reptiles and found successfully or unsuccessfully .


Subsequent to the sad and tragic passing of Steve, I thought we would like to dedicate this section on Enrichment to the very short, but enriched life of Steve Irwin, who did, so must for raising awareness of the wildlife and especially reptiles. However also thought we had better ask permission first so we will do this in due course after an appropriate interval.

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Last update : 01/04/2007