Habitat Enrichment




Habitat EnrichmentHabitat EnrichmentHabitat EnrichmentWhen my daughter was younger, we decided to show her the magic of life in various forms by raising containers of critters. We purchased several habitats for this type of learning adventure, complete with a postcard to send away for the critters to be delivered (yes, in the mail).When my daughter was younger, we decided to show her the magic of life in various forms by raising containers of critters. We purchased several habitats for this type of learning adventure, complete with a postcard to send away for the critters to be delivered (yes, in the mail).Katherine Dobbs, RVT, CVPM, PHRstaff-safariMay 6, 2011Posted: May 6, 2011, 12:45 p.m., EDT

When my daughter was younger, we decided to show her the magic of life in various forms by raising containers of critters. We purchased several habitats for this type of learning adventure, complete with a postcard to send away for the critters to be delivered (yes, in the mail). We raised ants, but not in the typical dirt ant farm with the slim see-through container. Oh no, ours had a plastic skate park, complete with a fun house and slide. And no, the ants did not come with tiny roller skates!

We raised ladybugs on a pretty plastic hill with fake flowers inside a plastic dome. We hatched butterflies in a small hanging net enclosure. Finally, we decided to try turning tadpoles into frogs. We were sent two tadpoles, and kept them for months in the recommended dark, quiet environment and fed them daily, all the while watching for limbs to sprout. One tadpole died of unknown reasons (no necropsy was performed), and the other finally began sprouting!

When it finally finished the transition and became a frog, I ventured reading forward in the instructions only to learn that leopard frogs live for upwards of five years, and require live crickets to eat! On top of that, the habitat was a plastic dome that contained a plastic coconut hull hut, a plastic fake palm tree, and a little pond with a plastic bottom, of course.

Well that just wouldn’t do…I headed to the reptile store and proceeded to spend hours getting good advice and piling up the supplies: a glass aquarium, a light/heat source, moss, rocks, dirt, and yes, live crickets. To add insult to injury, the crickets had to be shaken in a calcium powder before being fed to Mr. Frog, the poor little things blinded and stumbling around. The frog seemed, well, happy with his new home. Who wouldn’t be? The $2 tadpole ended up in a luxury condo that cost $200!

I’ve always insisted on enriched habitats for my critters. The beta fish couldn’t just have a jar to live in; it had to be in a 2-gallon tank complete with aeration. It just seems to me that life should be spent living as close to a natural existence as possible. Funny then that we as veterinary professionals often spend our work lives in a habitat that festers with stress, negativity and uncomfortable situations. Even just plain politeness is often forgotten when we talk to each other. Why is that? Didn’t our moms teach all of us to use “please” and “thank you”? She would be so disappointed to see how little respect we show each other at times of stress and discomfort. It seems those bits of politeness are the first habitat enrichments we should use.

Next would be an infusion of asking, rather than telling. When you need help, does your request end with a question mark? Is it, “Hey, can you help me for a minute?”, rather than “Come here, I need help”.

Then add the final touch to the habitat by wearing a smile as much as possible. It makes you feel good, and it makes others smile when they see you. Things aren’t really as bad as we make them out to be sometimes. Just think, you could be one of those dusted crickets!

5/6/2011 9:44 AM
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