The shape of enrichment, inc.

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Welcome to The Shape of Enrichment, Inc.!

The Shape of Enrichment, Inc. is a non-profit corporation that offers a variety of services to animal care professionals worldwide. Founded in 1991, The Shape of Enrichment, Inc. is dedicated to promoting environmental and behavioral enrichment efforts for animals in human care, and encouraging improvements in animal welfare worldwide through education and international exchanges of enrichment theory and application.


It's been a crazy couple of years, hasn't it? Like the rest of the world, we at Shape have been impacted in many ways by the upheaval caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, both professionally and personally. As a result, it has been difficult for us to maintain Shape operations. We apologize for lapses in communication and services that you have experienced during this time.

The biggest interruptions were to conferences, courses, and workshops, which had to be cancelled. The International Conference on Environmental Enrichment (ICEE) did not take place this year; and we are uncertain at this point when or if that conference may take place in the future. We also had to cancel any workshops that were planned, and we do not know when those may be able to resume.

As the situation around the world continues to unfold, we will keep you posted if and when we are able to restart any of our in-person Shape of Enrichment activities.

We hope you are staying safe and well, and our hats are off to all of you who have continued to care for your animals with such dedication during these difficult times. You are an inspiration!

—Karen and Val

Submit an Article to
The Shape of Enrichment

Have an enrichment item, technique, or plan that you have tried or implemented with animals at your facility? Share it with the enrichment community—write an article about it and submit it for publication on The Shape of Enrichment online!

Submitting an Article

About Enrichment

Definition of Environmental Enrichment

Enrichment is a dynamic process for enhancing animal environments within the context of the animals behavioral biology and natural history. Environmental changes are made with the goal of increasing the animal's behavioral choices and drawing out their species-appropriate behaviors, thus enhancing animal welfare.
—1999 AZA Behavior Scientific Advisory Group

Individuals or Populations?

When considering animal welfare and environmental enrichment, it is critical to remember that both are individual-based. While animal caretakers and managers are often concerned with populations, enrichment and welfare are not – what is beneficial to one individual may not be for another.

Environmental Enrichment Plans

At The Shape of Enrichment, Inc., we feel there are some principles that are critical to achieving successful and efficient enrichment plans. 

Enrichment plans should be holistic. To ensure that we consider all aspects of the environment, we recognize 5 categories of enrichment. These categories are not mutually exclusive. Each category should be represented appropriately in an animal's enrichment plan.

  • Social
  • Cognitive
  • Physical
  • Sensory
  • Food

Enrichment plans should be goal-driven. Behavioral goals should be determined to direct the enrichment strategies and schedules for an animal. The goals may be general (e.g. increase exploration) or specific (e.g. encourage olfactory investigation). There may be multiple goals for a given animal, and there may be multiple enrichment strategies offered. 

Enrichment plans should be assessed both initially and periodically throughout the year. The method of assessment may vary but the intent is to determine if a new enrichment strategy is meeting your behavioral goal, and if it continues to do so over time. If a new enrichment strategy is not meeting the goal (or if it has ceased to do so over time), modifications should be explored. 

Enrichment Framework. To ensure that enrichment plans are goal-oriented, tested, and assessed, we encourage the use of a planning protocol. Several have been developed and are in use today. For its simplicity and flexibility, we recommend the Shape Planning Flow Chart, which can be downloaded from our Resources page.

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Host a Shape of Enrichment Workshop at your Facility

The Shape of Enrichment, Inc. has held workshops at zoos and aquariums around the world. Most workshops are four to five days long, and include classroom-style presentations about what enrichment is, how to go about planning and implementing enrichment for individuals or groups of animals, safety considerations, and different enrichment approaches. Then we get hands-on and work in groups to choose, create, and build enrichment items, and give them to the animals to see how they respond. It's a lively, rewarding, and comprehensive way to learn about enrichment—or refresh your skills!

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