Wintering Zoo Animals in Northern Climates

Jackie StoneAnimal Enrichment, Animal TalkLeave a Comment

Zoos across North America are home to many species of animals from around the world that are not native to cold climates and, in fact, would perish if special care were not taken during the Winter months.

The most obvious consideration is temperature.  Many species only require what might be considered a relatively wide range of temperatures and can be housed indoors during the Winter, in an environment controlled by a somewhat standard thermostat and heater.  Some species need to be kept at a more even level constantly, with a variance of as little as five degrees Farenheit in some  cases.  These animals typically live in completely enclosed habitats year-round, but may still require special treatment in Winter months.

Another factor in keeping animals healthy and happy is their food, which can be affected in Winter.  Animals whose habitats include edible trees and shrubs that they are used to eating in Summer may not even have leaves in Winter.  Some zookeepers harvest the plant foliage in the Fall and freeze dry it for Winter feeding.

Animals that are moved inside during the Winter still need exercise, so regular exercise periods in and out-of-doors may be called for.

Enrichment is key for Wintering animals, with strategies deployed to make foraging for food more challenging and to encourage daily play.

Mouse Habitat, Enrichment & You

Jackie StoneCaging & EquipmentLeave a Comment

mouse-imageBesides being pantry pests and sometimes playful pets, it is well known that mice can be employed by both animal scientists as subjects in humane research and by zookeepers as a healthy diet for some animals in their care.

So, it makes sense to provide a high level of care for this fast-breeding and quickly maturing rodent, no matter what your relationship.  The right type of caging and nesting materials are as important as diet in maintaining a healthy population of one or one hundred.

Providing enough variety and challenge with the right enrichment approach is also key to reduce stress and boredom that comes with captivity.

For the past few months we have been taking a poll on our ecommerce website to see what our visitors think that mice most prefer.   Here are the latest results of the poll:

  • Play Toys (27 vote(s) – 5.5%)
  • Shelters (166 vote(s) – 33.5%)
  • Chew Toys (60 vote(s) – 12.1%)
  • Shreddables (242 vote(s) – 48.9%)

Otto Environmental’s online store has an amazing amount of equipment and enrichment items to explore and purchase, from caging and bedding material to play toys and exercise wheels.refugeii


Making the Right Choice for Enrichment

Jackie StoneAnimal EnrichmentLeave a Comment

When making choices for animal enrichment Jeff Otto, owner of Otto 0009392_enrichment-toys_200Environmental, emphasizes the importance of choosing the right product to meet the specific needs of the animal and its unique situation.  Jeff stresses the need for enrichment as a means for captive animals to duplicate species-typical behavior in order to reduce boredom and stress associated with captivity.  “It’s important to find the right enrichment product to achieve your enrichment goals.”

In order to provide proper enrichment,  Jeff recommends asking a few simple questions before making any decisions:

  • Is durability important?
  • What materials work best for your
    situation—rubber, vinyl, plastics, stainless
    steel, etc.?
  • Does color matter?
  • Do existing products meet your needs, or
    should we consider custom-made
  • What are your size requirements? What
    will fit in your cage?
  • Do you want a toy or a treat?
  • What is your budget?

But regardless of what specific enrichment program you determine is right for your situation, no program is possible without the dedication of your staff.  The most successful and rewarding programs are those that give the animal treats and toys with enthusiasm, and are routinely rotated.

0005893_z2-625Our Otto Environmental online store offers a full line of enrichment products organized by species for your convenience, although you may find the right item for your situation in any category, so browsing is suggested.  Many of them are custom-made products available exclusively through Otto.  Whether it’s for large animals or small rodents, Jeff and his staff are able to find the right enrichment solution to meet both your animal’s needs and your budget.

Otto Environmental Teams up with the Rio Grande Zoo

Jackie StoneAnimal Enrichment, Customized Solutions, New ProductsLeave a Comment

Hornbills, like many bird species, have their own needs when it comes to enrichment.  Diane Longenecker, who is the Senior Keeper-Birds at ABQ BioPark-Rio Grande Zoo in Albuquerque, NM, approached Otto Environmental about creating unique enrichment devices that utilize natural Abyssinian Hornbill behavior.

Otto Environmental owner and Senior Enrichment Designer, Jeff Otto, has now designed two different enrichment devices for Hornbills: the Hornbill Forage Tube and the Hornbill Forager.  Watch Maybelline, the Abyssinian Hornbill, enjoy working for her meal as she explores the depths of the Forage Tube.

While initially made for Hornbills, these unique feeders can provide many opportunities for enrichment of many large avian species.

The Forage Tube’s spinning drum is made of heavy duty fabric, with slats in which to hide food and treats.  It is adjustable, so the openings can be sized appropriately for the needs of the bird.  It includes an eye-bolt for hanging high or low.  It measures 23″ long and 7.5″ in diameter (58cm x 19cm).  Go to our online store to see more or to purchase.

Go here to see and read more about the Hornbill Forager.

Special thanks to Diane Longenecker of the Rio Grande Zoo in Albuquerque, NM.

Otto Environmental and the Milwaukee Zoo Partner on Animal Enrichment Day 2016

Jackie StoneAnimal EnrichmentLeave a Comment

Here is a closer look at the purchases and donated items visitors on Animal Enrichment Day 2016 made on behalf of the animals at the Milwaukee County Zoo.  We would like to again thank all those who visited us at the Otto Environmental booth to learn about animal enrichment and especially those of you who made donations of enrichment items to the Zoo.

If you would still like to donate through Otto Environmental to our partners at the Milwaukee County Zoo, please call us at 414-529-7780 to see how you can help.

2016 Animal Enrichment Day at the Milwaukee Zoo

Jackie StoneAnimal EnrichmentLeave a Comment

Saturday, June 11, 2016, was a beautiful, sunny day with mild temperatures.  That made it  even better spending the day at the Milwaukee County Zoo’s Animal Enrichment Day.  Our Otto Environmental team was there helping to educate visitors at one of the nation’s premier zoos about the science (and sometimes the art) of animal enrichment.

Animal enrichment is defined as, “a dynamic process for enhancing animal environments within the context of the animals’ behavioral biology and natural history” by The Association of Zoos and Aquariums.  Animal care staff at the Milwaukee County Zoo feel that enhancing the welfare of the animals under their care is of primary importance.  Over the past years Otto Environmental has worked with the zookeepers of the Milwaukee County Zoo to develop unique and safe products, like the Elephant Drum, to keep their minds healthy and active, in an environment that is more natural for them.

During the day we spoke with lots of people about the great work being done at the Zoo, many of whom donated to the Zoo for animal enrichment items to be purchased later by the zookeepers.

We also offered many Otto exclusive enrichment items for sale designed for pets of all types from dogs to birds and from swine to horses and everything in between.

Our thanks to the Milwaukee County Zoo for inviting us to participate in the 2016 Animal Enrichment Day and to the many visitors who stopped by to talk to us.

Swine Housing & Enrichment – Over 70 Products in Our Online Store

Jackie StoneAnimal Enrichment, Caging & EquipmentLeave a Comment

With five dozen enrichment items in stock, our online store provides lots of solutions to boredom for swine everywhere!

And the options we offer for housing and caging have been known to make our customers’ lives better, too.

See more of our swine enrichment items in our online store, starting at $3.49.

And check out the Swine Pens category of products, too!

Animal Enrichment: We Are Molding Products to Fit Your Needs

Jackie StoneAnimal Enrichment, Customized SolutionsLeave a Comment

How things are made can be fascinating to most people, so we thought you might want to see how some of our own exclusive Otto Environmental’s animal enrichment items are produced – right here in the USA!  Many of our most fun and creatively designed toys are made of colorful thermoplastic, injection molded here in Southeastern Wisconsin, and ready to stand up to amazingly extreme punishment from a host of various animal species, from canine to primate.

Click on an image below to go to our online store and find out more about some of the most durable and unique enrichment items you’ll ever see.

  0005862_the-zoy  0006816_the-zigg-5
The Zoy ($9.45) The Zigg ($10.45)
 0005893_z2-625 0005898_zyro
The Z-2 ($9.45 ea.) The Zyro ($8.80 ea.)

Tree Kangaroo Claws: An Animal Enrichment Case Study

Jackie StoneAnimal Enrichment, Customized SolutionsLeave a Comment

One of our favorite things is to get creative when our local zookeeper friends need a solution for a particularly “sticky” animal enrichment issue. See what we mean in this video we shot at the Milwaukee County Zoo.

While we offer existing solutions for animal enrichment of all kinds, we also welcome requests for custom solutions.  Contact us and we’ll help find something in our vast stock or we may be able to develop something special for your needs.

We work with zoos and animal habitats worldwide.

The Versa-Rod, For Innovative Mouse and Small Mammal Enrichment

Jackie StoneAnimal Enrichment, Caging & Equipment, New ProductsLeave a Comment

0007689_versa-rod_70 Spring-loaded, made from stainless steel with washable plastic end caps, the Versa-Rod is a simple and extremely versatile device designed to improve enrichment for all small rodents.

The video below shows some of the ways you can use this new, exclusive item from Otto Environmental.

Adding one or more Versa-Rods to your mouse, gerbil, or hamster cage can provide many opportunities for not only basic climbing enrichment, but for behavior control, to hang instruments for testing and toys for more advanced play.  7 1/2″ long.

Animal enrichment has never been better at Otto Environmental, with new products being added all the time. Visit our online store often to find many unique enrichment items, in-stock and ready to ship.

Caging and equipment is our other area of expertise, with loads of solutions for small to medium size animals.  We even offer custom solutions when something other than what we have in-stock is called for.