Here at IEAS, we take great pride in the habitats that we provide for the felines and bears who live here. Every facet of what goes into a habitat, including safety, size, perches, grass, trees,enrichment, and more is carefully thought out and considered.
Habitat sizes are determined by a number of factors. These factors, of course, include the standard size regulations, but here at the Sanctuary, other factors often lead our habitat sizes to exceed the standard. When determining the square footage of a habitat, an animal's age, activity level, and size are all considered. Additionally, fence heights and the existence of a top on the habitat are determined by the animal's ability or likelihood to climb or jump. For example, the lion habitats at IEAS have fences that are eleven feet high with an additional four foot overhang angling into the habitat. These fourteen foot high habitats do not have tops, while the leopard habitats at IEAS all have a top. This is because leopards are exceptionally good climbers and jumpers. The top provides a necessary measure of safety for these habitats.
Environmental Enrichment is something that is particularly important in terms of what goes INTO a habitat. Essentially, environmental enrichment includes anything that mimics something in an animal's natural habitat and "enriches" the space in which they live. This can include anything from grass, trees, and boulders, to perches and hammocks.
For example, a bobcat in the wild would enjoy lounging in the trees as being up high helps them feel safe and protected. At IEAS, we provide bobcats with tall trees, fire hose hammocks, and multi-level perches that allow them to do just that - feel safe and protected up high as they would in their natural environment. The same goes for all of the other residents of IEAS. We have multi-perches and ramps for the climbing residents, pools and waterfalls for the tigers, caves to keep cool for the cougars, bobcats, and lions. Habitats have trees, perches, large rocks, grass, and more. All of these things provide them a place to feel comfortable and safe, while also allowing them to make the habitat their own by scent marking, clawing, and rubbing. Additionally, plenty of vegetation provides a truly naturalistic habitat with shady spot to hide, shelter from wind and weather, and a "wild" feel.
Behavioral enrichment items also go into a habitat. These toys are items that allow the animal to perform its natural behaviors, such as pouncing, stalking, and playing. At IEAS, we use all kinds of durable items as enrichment, including Boomer balls, giant wooden spools, heavy duty tires, and even huge plastic pickles (which, surprisingly) are one of the felines' favorite toys! It is always entertaining to watch the residents of IEAS play with their favorite behavioral enrichment items. It is amazing to see how happy their favorite toys can make them!
It is wonderful to see how the proper habitat can make these animals feel content, secure, and safe. Come out and visit the International Exotic Animal Sanctuary to see for yourself!