Turtle Enrichment for Toucans

Our toucans enjoy spectacular views from their large, outdoor enclosures. From up on their higher perches, they can see well across the bright turquoise Caribbean waters. They watch the seagulls and pelicans dive for fish; watch sailboats and yachts cruise by; and people watch the tourists going about their holiday activities. But because they are forever curious, they are always on the lookout for the next big thing to investigate.

For the times we are not directly spending time with them, whether it be through feeding, training, or play, I am constantly searching for ways to keep them stimulated and entertained. One of the ways is through environmental enrichment – we try to keep the area surrounding their cage an interesting and dynamic space. Environmental enrichment can be anything – from a sprinkler placed nearby to a kite flying through the sky. Not only is this useful for enlivening their life within their enclosure, but it also works for desensitizing them to new objects and people, making them much calmer and less frightened of new situations as they occur.

David originally got the idea to place some decorative lawn ornaments that we had in some of our garden beds near the toucan cages. One of their favorites are these stone sea turtles that we prop up onto their cages, as though the turtle is peeking in on them. This proved to be quite amusing to the toucans – they can’t seem to figure out what the deal is with these mysterious turtles and it keeps them inquisitively studying them throughout the day.

Recently, some island friends of ours asked us to pet-sit for them while they went away on vacation. So for the last two months, our island has also been home to 7 red-footed tortoises. Naturally, always scouting for new enrichment for my birdies, we decided to enclose the turtles in the area surrounding the toucans. Paco, Pepe, and especially Paz get a big kick out of watching the turtles whenever they roam around. They also get really excited each morning when the turtles get their breakfast, as I make a big show for them trying to find all of the hiding turtles to put them near their fruit plates.

It’s been fun for the birds and I know they’ll miss the turtles when they’re gone. In preparation, I’m trying to come up with some ideas for a suitable replacement with similar entertainment value. There are some baby goats on our neighboring island, but so far, David is a solid “no” with little sign of budging. So, it’s back to the drawing board for now. Stay tuned for more environmental enrichment for the toucans – you simply never know what will turn up next!

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