The Pocatello Zoo’s hoof stock zoo keeper Matthew Rich traveled to Vietnam for three weeks in September to teach seminars on animal enrichment.
“The Peace Corps for animals,” is how Pocatello Zoo Keeper Matthew Rich describes it.
Animal enrichment is anything that will stimulate the natural behaviors in an animal, especially when it comes to feeding.
“We’re used to sitting down at a table and having food put in front of us, eating off a plate. Animals aren’t. Animals need to search,” said Rich.
Matthew’s 30 years of zoo experience working with animals from all over the world have taught him just how to make them feel at home, no matter how far away from home they are.
“Animals always need to be enriched. If you put an animal in an enclosure here, if it’s an animal from Asia or Africa, it’s the same as an animal from America. It still needs to be stimulated,” explains Rich.
Matthew did a lot of good in Vietnam, working to rebuild and enrich a bear exhibit, carnivore exhibits, and two new monkey exhibits. He isn’t just bettering zoos half way across the world, however, he’s gotten to work right here in Pocatello too.
“In the wild these donkeys would be eating all day long. We do them a disservice by feeding them in one place, once time a day, set time. What we’re doing right now behind me is we’re feeding them out of a hay feeder, it will take them about an hour or two, and they have to work and think at it.”
By putting himself in the animal’s feet, Matthew has been able to make a lot of animal’s lives a little more fun to live.
Matthew was asked by the organization Animals Asia to go on this trip and the Pocatello Zoo was nice enough to give him the weeks off as well as pay his wages for some of the days of hard work he put in in Vietnam. The Pocatello Zoo has enrichment seminars every summer if any of you would like to learn more about it.