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2023 Holiday and End-of-Year Donor Support Tips

The holidays are a time for giving, and many people are looking for ways to give back to their communities.

Zoos, animal shelters, and rescue facilities are always in need of support, and there are many ways that supporters can help. But they need to know about your organization and how holiday donations help in your work with animals.

Here are some effective methods for making it easy to get the word out to friends and donors in time for holiday giving:

Use Social Media

  • Share your wish list on social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook.
  • Link to the donation page on your facility’s website.
  • Use hashtags to reach a wider audience.
  • Post about the animals in your care and the work that you do.

Support for Specific Animals and Habitats

It is no secret that donors have favorite animals and causes. Zoos know there are big cat lovers, bird enthusiasts, even reptile fans! If you run an animal shelter you have dogs, cats, and small animals to care for. Large animal rescues, depending on their focus, may have horses, pigs, alpacas, and other large animals. Create multiple social media posts with unique animal-specific images to let your donors know how to support their favorite animal. If you have a project, like a new enclosure door, show an image of the item. This works with small animal enrichment toys too.

 Make Your Wish List Public

Supporters want to help, so make it easy for them. One of the most effective ways of communicating your needs is with a wish list. Provide a gift list so they can easily see what they are purchasing and why it is needed. Zoo Atlanta publishes a great holiday gift-giving list on their website.

  • Share it on your website, by email, and at the facility.
  • Make a list of products and explain how they enrich the animals’ lives.
  • Show an image of the item and the animal that benefits from the enrichment product.
  • Feel free to use our product images.

Get Creative with Marketing

Blank Park Zoo has a year-end gift list based on the type of animal. They even link directly to our product pages. If your animals have names, say something like “Samantha our lioness would really like a new Kong Extreme Ball”. Slogans like “Our monkeys will go bananas if they get a new hammock ” resonate with animal-lovers.  Tell a story that helps donors identify with the need. Humane societies and animal shelters should break down their wish list by animal type. A cat lover will be moved by feline enrichment products while dog fans will be eager to provide toys and treats for canines.

You have the opportunity to emphasize your facility’s objectives and underscore the significance of contributing to items that enhance the welfare of the animals under your supervision. Some examples include:

  • “By buying a gift, you assist our animal caregivers in ensuring a joyful life for the animals.”
  • “These items contribute to research, aid in the renovation of animal habitats, and offer toys that allow animals to exhibit their natural behaviors during play.”
  • “Your donation directly affects the daily life and well-being of (insert a specific animal).

Holiday Celebrations and Open House Events

Organize a festive open house during the holiday season and utilize this occasion to communicate your wish list and the requirements of the animals in your care. Demonstrate or show what the needs of your facility are. But remember to keep it fun and light-hearted for the attendees. Don’t forget to invite the local media. News outlets are always looking for upbeat holiday topics.

Happy Holidays from Otto Environmental

Otto Environmental is committed to assisting you in the care of your animals by offering the finest animal enrichment products, enclosure systems, and product support. We wish you joyful holidays, and eagerly anticipate the opportunity to serve you in the coming year.

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Chewable Materials for Small Animals: A Scientific Perspective for Zookeepers and Laboratories


In the zoo, laboratory and pet segments of small animal care, it is no surprise many animals love to chew just about anything in their enclosure. Rabbits, rats, mice, guinea pigs and other small animals have a strong instinct to gnaw and chew. Zoo staff and laboratory professionals should not overlook the importance of providing chewable materials. While seemingly simple, chewable materials play a pivotal role in enhancing the physical and mental health of these animals. The environment of the animal should accommodate innate physiological and behavioral needs such as smelling, tasting, foraging, and gnawing. In this blog post, we will delve into the benefits and importance of providing such materials to ensure the overall welfare of these small creatures.

Physical Health Benefits

One of the primary advantages of offering chewable materials to small animals is the promotion of dental health. Rodents, in particular, have continuously growing teeth, and regular chewing helps naturally wear down their teeth, preventing overgrowth and potential dental issues. Research indicates providing chewable enrichment is paramount to avoiding small animal dental issues. This simple activity can significantly reduce the occurrence of dental malocclusions, a common problem in captive small animals. The Chew Stack is an example of a chewable enrichment device that is more interesting and effective than a paper towel roll. The Chew Stack can be hung from enclosure, where it provides a variety of shapes, textures and chew experiences that keep animals interested and engaged.

Chewing also contributes to gastrointestinal health by promoting proper digestion. The mechanical action of chewing on fibrous materials stimulates saliva production, aiding in the breakdown of food and facilitating nutrient absorption. This is especially crucial in laboratory settings where the precision of research outcomes may be influenced by the health of the animals involved. Our Apple Sticks are an all-natural fiber-rich chewable enrichment product. Great for laboratory rodents and other chewers such as guinea pigs, hamsters, rabbits, degus, and prairie dogs.

Mental Stimulation and Enrichment

Providing chewable materials is an easy and effective method of offering behavioral enrichment to small animals, yet is often overlooked by some animal caregivers. In both zoo and laboratory environments, where these animals may be confined to limited spaces, engaging activities such as chewing help prevent boredom and reduce stress. This is particularly important for laboratory animals, as stress can introduce variables that may compromise research results.

Chewable materials provide cognitive stimulation. The exploration and manipulation of diverse textures and shapes challenge the animals’ minds, preventing stereotypical behaviors and promoting mental agility. Enriched environments contribute to the overall well-being of small animals, ensuring that they exhibit more natural behaviors, even in captivity.

Proper Material Selection

Careful consideration must be given to the types of chewable materials provided. Natural materials, such as untreated wood blocks or hay, are excellent choices. These materials not only cater to the animals’ chewing instincts but also avoid potential harm from toxic substances found in some synthetic alternatives. Otto Environmental has already vetted the chewable enrichment products we offer. You can be assured our enrichment products are safe when used the appropriate species. We offer a variety of enrichment products that will satisfy the chewing needs of any small animal. Here are just a few of the enrichment products we recommend for chewing animals in the laboratory, home, shelter, and zoo.

  • Timothy Hay Balls are an ideal enrichment idea for rats and mice along with guinea pigs, hamsters, chinchillas, and other rodents. The balls roll and are designed to be chewed and eaten.
  • Willow Bundles are easily held, manipulated, and chewed by rabbits, guinea pigs, prairie dogs, chinchillas, degus, rats and other chewing animals.
  • Natural deer antlers are rich in calcium, magnesium, zinc, phosphorus, and collagen. Naturally shed and collected in the USA, they are perfect for eager chewers like squirrels, chinchillas, and prairie dogs.
  • Carrot Crunchers contain nothing but carrots but are tasty, crunchy fun for rabbits and other gnawing animals.


Chewable materials are an essential enrichment tool for small animals in both zoo and laboratory settings. Beyond addressing physical health concerns, these materials contribute significantly to the mental well-being and enrichment of the animals in our care. Otto Environmental understands that your time is valuable. It takes up valuable time hunting down chewable scrap materials that are safe for your animals. That is why we have sourced trusted chewable products that are easy to incorporate into your small animal enrichment program. If you have any questions or special needs for your animal care program, give us a call. We are happy to help you find solutions for all of your enrichment needs.

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Enhancing Small Animal Diets: The Nutritional Powerhouse of Dried Fruits, Nuts, and Insects


As caretakers of small animals, whether as pets or in zoo and laboratory environments, maintaining optimal health and well-being is a top priority. While traditional commercial diets have a balanced formula of fat, protein, and fiber, a growing body of research suggests that a complete and varied-ingredient diet can offer a myriad of benefits. In this blog post, we’ll explore how these supplemental foods can elevate the nutritional profile of small animal diets and enhance environmental enrichment at the same time.


Dried Fruits and Vegetables

Dried fruits, when added in moderation, can be a tasty and nutritious component of small animal and bird diets. Rich in natural sugars, vitamins, and antioxidants, dried fruits offer a burst of energy while promoting overall health. The fiber content in dried fruits and vegetables aids in digestion, contributing to a well-functioning gastrointestinal system for small animals. Additionally, the variety of flavors and textures will stimulate the animal’s senses, encouraging natural foraging behaviors. The Utica Zoo, for example, supplements their Hyacinth Macaw diet with dried cranberries. Our Fruit and Veggie Tarts are 100% natural and pre-portioned for small animals.  Each tart is individually packaged. Made from timothy hay, apples, carrots, and potatoes, they are ideal for rabbits, guinea pigs, chinchillas, and other small animals! Be sure to check out these Apple Sticks. They are a favorite with many small mammals like guinea pigs, hamsters, rabbits, degus, and prairie dogs.

Fruit and Veggie Tarts

Apple Sticks

Nuts and Seeds: Power Packed With Protein and Healthy Fats

Nuts and seeds are nutritional powerhouses, providing essential proteins, healthy fats, and a range of vitamins and minerals. For small animals, which may have specific dietary requirements, incorporating nuts as treats enhances the daily feeding regimen. Nuts are particularly beneficial for species that require higher protein levels, supporting muscle development and overall growth. The healthy fats found in nuts contribute to coat health and can be crucial for animals with specialized fur or feathers. However, it’s important to note that nuts should be offered in moderation due to their calorie density. Yum Balls! Rodent Munchies are a treat option for squirrels, chinchillas, rats, hamsters, and other small rodents. Packed with nuts, fruits, and veggies, Yum Balls provide a protein and stimulate the animal’s natural urge to forage for food.

Yum Balls! Rodent Munchies

Insects: A Protein-Rich Delicacy

Insects are a natural and protein-rich food source that can mimic the diet of small animals in the wild. They are particularly beneficial for insectivorous species, such as certain birds, reptiles, and mammals. Insects provide essential amino acids for muscle development. Additionally, the exoskeleton of insects can contribute to the formation of strong jaws and beaks. This Brookfield Zoo video demonstrates enrichment with insects. We have a variety of canned insects that have been pre-cooked to soften the exoskeleton. The canned insects maintain their natural nutritional value, flavor, and aroma. Use them sparingly as a treat. They are an ideal supplemental food source for sugar gliders, hedgehogs, skunks, squirrels, birds, opossums, turtles, tropical fish, reptiles, and amphibians.


Balancing Act: Ensuring Optimal Nutrition

While the benefits of dried fruits, nuts, and insects in small animal diets are clear, it’s crucial to strike a balance. The key lies in creating a well-rounded and species-specific diet that considers the nutritional needs of each individual animal. Develop feeding plans that incorporate a variety of food sources while monitoring the animals’ health and adjusting diets accordingly.

Using Treats for Enrichment

As this video from Lincoln Park Zoo explains, varying the presentation of food and treats is vital to stimulating the animals. Puzzle feeders and other treat feeders, like the Forage Globe, engage the animal’s curiosity and senses. Use these special treats with puzzle and forage feeders to stimulate cognitive and physical activity while providing a fragrant, nutritious, and tasty treat.

Doors & Drawers Treat Forager

Forage Globe


Supplementing small animal diets with dried fruits, nuts, and insects opens up a world of nutritional possibilities for pet owners and zoo staff. By carefully considering the specific needs of each species, incorporating these natural and diverse food sources can enhance the overall health, well-being, and enrichment of the animals under our care.



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Caring for Sugar Gliders in the Zoo Environment

Sugar gliders (Petaurus breviceps) are small, nocturnal marsupials that are native to Australia and parts of Indonesia.

They are called sugar gliders because of their predilection for sugary foods such as sap and nectar. They are also known as lesser gliding possums. They have a distinctive anatomical feature called a patagium. It is a soft membrane extending between its wrists and ankles. This specialized membrane enables the sugar glider to execute controlled gliding maneuvers, akin to a parachute, as it navigates between trees. Sugar gliders can traverse considerable distances through the air, covering spans of nearly 110 meters. The San Diego Zoo reports that while sugar gliders live about five years in the wild, with good care the animals can live up to 15 years in captivity.

Sugar Glider Behavior

Sugar gliders usually nest in social groups of between two and seven animals but are also known to nest alone. The sugar glider has an intricate communication system based on scents.  Males use frontal, sternal, and urogenital glands. Females use pouch and urogenital glands for scents. Each animal has its own unique scent, which is used for identification in the social group. In addition, the dominant male marks his group members with his saliva. Sugar gliders are diligent boundary setters. The animals mark their territory using urine and secretions from various glands acting as “fences,” signaling to other gliders that this patch of woodland is already claimed.


Sugar Glider Care in Captivity

Sugar gliders should be kept in groups. Experience has shown that a lone animal can become depressed. The animals will form a strong bond with a caretaker. Approximately two hours per day of direct handling and interaction is recommended. Their enclosure must be large enough for them to play and explore while still having room for a nesting box. Branches provide climbing and perching areas. Avoid potentially toxic wood such as almond, apricot, black walnut, cherry, and peach branches. The Coconut Cup with perch is ideal for a feeding station. Cozy Sling Hammocks provide a feeling of safety for your sugar gliders.

Coconut Cup with Perch

Sling Hammock

Environmental enrichment

Sugar Gliders enjoy small swings or chew toys. The Barrel Roller and Rope Swing are designed for small animals like Sugar Gliders. Since Sugar Gliders are nocturnal and like to snuggle up in a secluded area, the hanging Cozy Cube can serve as a soft, darkened hide-away for multiple animals. This video from the American Museum of Natural History, explains how the staff cares for their sugar gliders.


Barrel Roller Toy

Rope Swing


Cozy Cube

Sugar Glider Diet

The San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance has a fact sheet on the dietary requirements of sugar gliders. The diet consists of the sap of Eucalyptus, Acacia gum, nectar, pollen, and insects. Replicating this varied diet in captivity can be challenging. Veterinarians and keepers have found that the animals will also eat fruits, vegetables, and eggs. A variety of formulas can be found here. Prepared Sugar Glider foods, such as those from Exotic Nutrition, are ideal for creating a varied and balanced diet plan. Nectar Pods are available in variety of scents and flavors. Our Canned Insects are ready to feed.




Otto Environmental recognizes the vital role zoo professionals play in the care and conservation of sugar gliders. Understanding of the intricacies of their behavior, social needs, and dietary requirements is essential for their well-being in captivity. Your diligent work greatly contributes to their conservation and offers visitors a glimpse into the captivating world of sugar gliders.

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The Joys and Challenges of Keeping Squirrels as Pets

Squirrels are fascinating creatures that often captivate our attention with their acrobatic antics and bushy tails.

But have you ever considered keeping one as a pet or at your petting farm or zoo? While it may sound like an unusual choice, some people have successfully made squirrels part of their families. In this blog, we’ll explore the joys and challenges of keeping squirrels as pets.


Why We Love Squirrels

Aside from raiding our bird feeders, squirrels are just plain fun. Here are a few reasons we love to watch them and get as close as possible to these engaging animals.

Adorable Companions: Squirrels are undeniably cute with their bright eyes, bushy tails, and playful nature. Many squirrel enthusiasts find them endearing and enjoy the companionship they provide.

Educational Experience: Owning a pet squirrel can be an educational opportunity for both adults and children. It allows you to learn about wildlife behavior and the natural world up close.

Entertainment: Squirrels are highly entertaining animals. Their agility and curiosity make them excellent playmates, and they can provide hours of amusement as they scamper and explore their environment.

Bonding: Developing a bond with a pet squirrel is possible as this video demonstrates.  It can be a unique and rewarding experience. While they are not as affectionate as dogs or cats, many squirrel owners report a special connection with their furry friends.


Tips Keeping Squirrels as Pets

Specialized Diet: Squirrels have specific dietary needs. Maintaining their nutritional requirements can be more challenging than feeding traditional pets. There is some confusion about a proper diet. While squirrels do eat sunflower seeds and will gnaw on the head of a sunflower, they are not good for the animals. Think of sunflower seeds as junk food. The seeds lack a full complement of amino acids and can interfere with calcium uptake. Sunflower seeds and peanuts should be restricted to occasional treats. Squirrels require a diet rich in fruits like our Rose Hips, vegetables, nuts, and our high-quality rodent blocks. Did you know squirrels eat insects? Don’t worry, we have protein-rich pre-cooked dried insects so you don’t have to catch your own!

Enclosure and Space: Squirrels are active animals that need their space to thrive. Building a suitable enclosure with climbing structures and nesting areas is important. Our Nest Boxes are designed for small animals like squirrels and feature a hinge for easy access for easy cleaning and to view or remove your squirrel. We also offer a complete squirrel starter kit complete with a nesting box and other essentials like a water bottle. If you prefer a cage enclosure for keeping your squirrel contained while you are away, consider the Casablanca Small Animal Cage.


Nest Boxes

Squirrel Starter Kit

Casablanca Small Animal Cage

Wild Instincts: Squirrels have strong wild instincts, which means they need to climb, chew, and explore as this video from the Blue Ridge Wildlife Center demonstrates. Without adequate environmental enrichment, they can become stressed in captivity, leading to health issues or behavioral problems. That is why we make a variety of enrichment products for smaller animals like squirrels. The Grass Ball Trio is made from all-natural grasses that can be rolled, gnawed, and eaten by squirrels. The PVC Forager makes any cage or enclosure fun for squirrels.

Grass Ball Trio

PVC Forager

Dental Health: Squirrels’ teeth, like those of all rodents, grow continuously throughout their lives. Chewing on various objects helps them naturally wear down their teeth, preventing them from becoming overgrown. Overgrown teeth can cause serious health issues, including difficulty eating and potential dental problems. The Willow Bundle and Antler Chews are ideal for squirrels!

Willow Bundle

Antler Chews

Final Thoughts on Squirrels as Pets

A squirrel can live up to 15 years. It is a long-term commitment to understanding the somewhat specialized care a squirrel will need. At Otto Environmental we make it easy to get the enrichment and squirrel care products you need. Still wondering what all the fuss is about pet squirrels? Take a look at this squirrel rescue video to understand one person’s amazing journey with a rescued squirrel.

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The Social Media Zoo: Exploring the Popularity of Animals Online

In the age of the internet, where cute cat videos, heartwarming dog stories, and hilarious animal memes reign supreme, it’s evident that animals have taken over our social media feeds.

From viral videos of of the Cincinnati Zoo’s red pandas playing in the snow to heartwarming tales of rescue animals finding their forever homes, it’s clear that animals hold a special place in the hearts of social media users. But why exactly are animals so popular on social media, and how has this trend evolved? Let’s dive into the world of adorable pets and majestic wildlife that dominate our screens.

The Science of Cuteness

It’s no secret that animals are irresistibly cute. Whether it’s the fluffy antics of a kitten, the puppy dog eyes of a Golden Retriever, or the innocent look of a baby elephant, these images and videos trigger the brain’s pleasure centers. Research indicates that viewing pictures or videos of cute animals can release oxytocin, the “love hormone,” which promotes feelings of bonding and happiness. This neurological response makes it hard for anyone to resist the charm of an adorable animal on their screen.


Emotional Resonance


Animals, both domestic and wild, often evoke strong emotions. Social media is a platform for sharing personal stories, and animals, with their wide range of behaviors and expressions, provide countless opportunities for storytelling. Heartfelt stories of rescue animals overcoming adversity, a dog reuniting with its owner after years of separation, or even the story of a newborn animal taking its first steps – these stories resonate deeply with social media users. They provide moments of inspiration, hope, and empathy in a world that can sometimes feel overwhelming.


Escapism and Stress Relief


The modern world is often fast-paced and filled with stress. Animals offer a delightful escape from our daily worries. A video of a sloth leisurely munching on leaves or a flock of birds soaring majestically through the sky can transport us to a calmer, more serene state of mind. Animals allow us to momentarily disconnect from our daily stresses and immerse ourselves in the simple pleasures of the natural world.


The Universal Language

Animals are a universal language. They transcend cultural and linguistic barriers, making them accessible and appealing to people all over the world. A cute cat video needs no translation to be enjoyed by people from diverse backgrounds. This universal appeal fosters a sense of global community on social media platforms.

How Animals Conquer Social Media


So, how do animals manage to dominate social media? Here are some key factors:


**User-Generated Content**: A significant portion of animal-related content on social media is user-generated. Anyone with a smartphone can capture a funny or heartwarming moment with their pet, and these moments often go viral. The ease of creating and sharing such content ensures a constant stream of adorable animal posts.


**Influencer Pets**: Just as human influencers have taken the social media world by storm, animal influencers are also on the rise. From Grumpy Cat to Doug the Pug, animals with their own social media profiles have amassed massive followings. Their quirky personalities and relatable content make them celebrities in their own right.


**Animal Advocacy**: Social media is not just about cute pictures; it’s a platform for raising awareness and driving change. Animal advocates and organizations use these platforms to promote pet adoption, conservation efforts, and animal welfare campaigns. The emotional connection people feel with animals can be harnessed for positive change.


In conclusion, the online world’s obsession with animals can be attributed to their inherent cuteness, their ability to evoke strong emotions, and their universal appeal. Moreover, the ease of creating and sharing animal content has turned them into social media stars, while influencers and advocacy efforts add depth to this phenomenon. As long as animals continue to capture our hearts and bring joy to our screens, they will remain a beloved and integral part of the social media landscape. So, the next time you come across a heartwarming animal video on your feed, remember that it’s not just a simple scroll; it’s a moment of connection, positivity, and shared delight with a global community of animal lovers.


Flat faced cats abandoned


Top earners


Cute overload with links.


Buying animals

When “cute” is cruel: Social media videos stoke loris pet trade, study says

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Enhancing the Lives of Captive Lizards: The Importance of Environmental Enrichment


Caring for lizards such as monitors, tegus, and iguanas in a zoo setting may seem like a challenging responsibility. Yet providing these reptiles with a healthy and stimulating environment is essential for their physical and psychological well-being. One may wonder if environmental enrichment is even necessary for reptiles. In this blog, we’ll explore the significance of environmental enrichment for captive lizards and discuss practical strategies that zoo staff can implement to ensure the best quality of life for these fascinating creatures.

Rationale for Lizard Enrichment

In the past, there was a prevailing belief that reptiles lacked the cognitive complexity to derive benefits from enrichment practices. However, recent studies have provided evidence suggesting that enrichment can lead to improvements in the well-being of captive reptiles. Research into lizard enrichment is limited but the recent findings indicate enrichment is beneficial.

One recent study conducted at the Chester Zoo showed that hanging feeders increased exploratory behavior in three varanid species (Komodo dragon, emerald tree monitor and crocodile monitor). Another study from the University of Life Sciences in Poland, tested environmental enrichment with captive leopard geckos (Eublepharis macularius). Results demonstrated all the lizards were interested in enrichment devices that allowed for climbing and hiding.

A 2002 study using Argentine black and white tegus focused on enhancing the structural elements of the enclosure. This included introducing various logs, a pool, and a sandbox. Surprisingly, the animals exhibited a preference for basking on the shelter’s roof. Initially, the logs piqued their curiosity, leading them to investigate by sniffing and scratching at the loose bark. The pool only seemed to catch their interest during exceptionally hot days. On the contrary, the sandbox served a practical purpose as they used it to conceal food and return to dig it out.

Defining Lizard Environmental Enrichment

Environmental enrichment refers to the process of enhancing the living conditions of animals in captivity, stimulating their natural behaviors, and promoting physical and mental health. For captive lizards, this involves replicating, as closely as possible, their natural habitat within the confines of their enclosure. This involves not only building the basic enclosure but adding special enrichment devices that satisfy species-specific instincts such as foraging for food, exploring new areas, soaking in water, and other sensory and cognitive stimulation.

The Benefits of Environmental Enrichment

Psychological Well-being: Lizards are not just static ornaments in an enclosure; they have complex behaviors and require mental stimulation. Enrichment activities can alleviate boredom, reduce stress, and enhance cognitive development. This, in turn, helps prevent stereotypical behaviors often seen in captivity.


Physical Health: Providing opportunities for lizards to exercise, hunt, and explore their environment promotes physical health. It can prevent obesity, muscle atrophy, and other health issues that can arise from a sedentary lifestyle.

Natural Behaviors: Many species of lizards are territorial, and they exhibit hunting, basking, and burrowing behaviors in the wild. Environmental enrichment allows them to express these natural behaviors in captivity, promoting their overall well-being.


Practical Strategies for Lizard Environmental Enrichment


  • Habitat Mimicry: Research each species’ natural habitat and strive to replicate it as closely as possible within the enclosure. This might involve providing appropriate substrates, logs, rocks, plants, and even the introduction of insects for hunting.
  • Diverse Diet: Vary their diet by including a wide range of species-specific insects, vegetables, fruits, and meats. This not only provides the necessary nutrients but also adds a degree of mental stimulation as they seek out and capture their food.
  • Opportunity to Explore: Create obstacle courses or mazes in the enclosure. This encourages lizards to explore, climb, and exercise while providing an opportunity for problem-solving. Observe and see what your reptile species enjoys.
  • Socialization: Some species can be housed together in appropriate groupings, promoting natural social interactions. However, ensure that individuals are compatible and provide hiding spots to reduce stress. The Turtle Hut and Granite Stone Hideaway are ideal for small lizards.
  • Novelty: Change the layout and items in their enclosure regularly to introduce new challenges. Lizards are curious creatures, and the introduction of new items or rearrangement of their space can be quite stimulating. The Komodo Dragon Tug is a favorite with large lizards.
  • Sensory Stimulation: Utilize different textures and scents within their environment. This can be achieved through the introduction of a variety of substrates, live plants, live prey, and other reptile-safe materials.
  • Puzzle Feeders: Implement puzzle feeders that require lizards to manipulate objects to access their food. This engages their cognitive skills and provides a challenge. Our Lickin’ Layers puzzle feeder works well with a variety of foods.

Turtle Hut

Granite Stone Hideaway

Komodo Dragon Tug

Lickin’ Layers Puzzle Feeder


Monitoring and Adaptation

Consistent observation is important for success. Pay attention to how the lizards interact with their enriched environment and adapt your strategies accordingly. Not all lizards will respond the same way, so being attuned to their individual needs is essential.


Caring for captive lizards is a responsibility that extends beyond providing food and shelter. Environmental enrichment plays a critical role in ensuring the physical and psychological well-being of these reptiles. By mimicking their natural habitat, providing diverse experiences, and promoting physical and mental health, you can enhance the lives of captive lizards, contributing to their overall health and happiness. Need more convincing? Take a look at the world’s first video showing play behavior in Komodo Dragons. If the big lizards like to play, we’re sure smaller species will enjoy some toys too!







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Enhancing Equine Well-being: Environmental Enrichment Techniques for Horses

Introduction to Equine Enrichment

Horses have an innate need for physical and mental stimulation. In the wild, they graze for hours, roam expansive landscapes, and engage in social interactions. Domesticated horses have the same desires. To ensure the well-being of our equine companions, it’s crucial to implement environmental enrichment techniques.

 Key Benefits to Equine Enrichment

  • Enhanced mental well-being, leading to decreased levels of anxiety and aggression.
  • Diminished occurrence of undesirable behaviors, stereotypical actions, compulsive tendencies, and bad habits.
  • Enhanced gastrointestinal health.
  • Improved physical condition.
  • Enhanced safety during both handling and rides.

Unfortunately, some horses are not given the same opportunities for mental and physical enrichment. Enrichment not only keeps horses physically and mentally healthy, but it also reduces stress and prevents negative behavior. The good news is you can provide meaningful equine enrichment for one or many horses in your care.  In this blog, we’ll explore some of the most effective environmental enrichment techniques for horses.

Pasture Turnout

Allowing horses access to pastures is one of the most natural and effective forms of environmental enrichment. In a pasture, they can graze, move freely, and interact with other horses. The open-air terrain, vegetation, and social interactions contribute to their mental and physical well-being. Ensure pastures are safe and adequately maintained to prevent injuries and overgrazing. Dr Susan McDonnell at the New Bolton Center  notes “People sometimes put their horses in a smaller space until they get used to each other, thinking that then they’ll be able to catch them if there’s a problem ,but that can create more problems.” Open space helps reduce aggression.

Social Interaction

Horses are inherently social animals, and they thrive on interaction with their herd mates. Isolation can lead to stress and behavioral issues. Whenever possible, house horses in pairs or groups to provide them with companionship. Socialization allows them to groom each other, play, and establish hierarchies, which is essential for their mental health.


Human Interaction

The human-horse bond spans all cultures. For millennia people have had close relationships with their horses. Ongoing research confirms there is a definite positive mutual relationship between horse and caregiver. Research suggests horses can remember human interactions, facial responses, and even discriminate between vocal expressions. One study suggests horses can identify humans by their scent and even tell if the caregiver is stressed or fearful. Human touch can be very beneficial to horses as this seminar (video) from the Campbell Centre for the Study of Animal Welfare explains.


Enrichment Toys and Treats

Provide your horses with toys designed for equine enrichment. Our Jolly Balls are intended for large animals like horses. As this YouTube video demonstrates, horses love to play with the Jolly Mega Ball. The Jolly Tug and Toss is another equine favorite (video). Treat-dispensing enrichment also keep horses engaged and mentally stimulated.

Horses Need to Forage

It is well-established that horses have a strong instinct to forage. In nature, horses have up to 50 different types of herbs and grasses to browse on. One study suggested that varying forage especially helps individually housed horses. Slow hay feeders, like the Horseman’s Pride Jolly Hay Ball are easily stuffed with hay, fragrant herbs, and vegetables as this video demonstrates. The slow-feeder can be hung with a rope or simply tossed into the paddock.

Sensory Stimulation

Horses rely heavily on their senses, particularly their sense of smell. Providing different scents in their environment, such as hanging up herbs or aromatic grasses, will engage their olfactory senses. A large Hayball Feeder stuffed with grasses and hay will serve as a stimulating “sensory station” where horses gather and interact. The Itchin’ Post is a safe and effective way for your horses to rub and scratch without getting splinters and skin abrasions. See it in action in this video.

Hayball Feeder

Itchin’ Post Scratcher

Equine Playtime

Allow horses to engage in playtime with each other or even with you. Playful interactions can relieve stress, encourage exercise, and foster a bond between you and your horse (video). Simple games like fetch (video) or hide-and-seek can be adapted to suit equine interests.



It is no secret that the well-being of your horses goes beyond providing food and shelter. Environmental enrichment techniques are essential for keeping them mentally and physically healthy. By incorporating these strategies into your horse’s daily routine, you can help prevent boredom, reduce stress, and create a happier, content horse. Your efforts will not only benefit their quality of life but also strengthen the bond between you and your equine friend.





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Enhancing the Fall Zoo Experience

As a seasoned zoo professional, you understand the significance of seasonal shifts and their impact on visitors and animal residents.

Fall, with its mesmerizing display of changing foliage and cooler temperatures, offers a unique opportunity to enrich the zoo experience for visitors of all ages. The fall season brings relief from the heat of summer, making it a prime time for animal observation and guest engagement. Cooler, crisper air encourages visitors to spend more time outdoors, fostering a deeper connection with the animals and exhibits.

Seasonal Programming Potential

Zoos capitalize on the season by developing special events and programming tailored to the fall theme. From enriching animals with pumpkin-based activities to hosting educational seminars on seasonal animal behaviors, these initiatives can foster a deeper understanding of our animal residents and conservation efforts. Here are examples of what other zoos are doing to celebrate the season and bring in visitors to enjoy the fall zoo experience.

  • The Columbus Zoo has several events and themes that run through November. Boo at the Zoo is a popular event with costumed animal mascots, pumpkin carving, and other family fun events. Visitors are encouraged to wear their costumes too!
  • Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium hosts Boo Zoo. Kids and adults dress up like their favorite animals. For fall, the animals will be enjoying pumpkin-themed enrichment. We recommend stuffable enrichment toys. The Hanging Snack Ball is a favorite with animals and visitors alike. Add fruit, veggies, and fragrant grass. The Stump Feeder is perfect for large animals like bears, big cats, and primates. Smear with peanut butter, pumpkin, and other fun treats. The zoo even has divers carving pumpkins underwater in an aquarium exhibit!
  • The Denver Zoo runs their Wild Fall Trick or Treat Trail events. Wild Fall features daytime events like pumpkin carving, festive costumed characters, and even food and drinks. Trick or Treat Trails is an after-dark event with photo ops, cocktails, and a silent disco contest.


Highlighting Conservation and Enrichment

Fall celebrations are the perfect opportunity to promote your facility and bring awareness to your zoo’s work in conservation, breeding, and specialized care for the animals. The National Zoo created this “pumpkin cam” video to highlight the importance of enrichment. The zoo staff uses spices and pumpkin treats for sensory enrichment. The Twist N Treat is a forage device for animals that stay low to the ground. Bingo Balls can be stuffed with grasses, vegetables, and other treats and be hung from a chain or rope.


Keeping Fall Celebrations Fresh

Omaha’s Henery Dooley Zoo has Eat, Drink and Be Scary! in the evenings. This event is focused on adults and incorporates local food trucks and adult beverages. New this year are over four hundred larger-than-life Halloween-themed lanterns in Bay Family Children’s Adventure Trails and the fire show performances by Omaha Circus Arts. Family-friendly costumes are encouraged.

Lincoln Park Zoo keeps visitors engaged with a variety of activities ranging from live music to professional pumpkin carvers demonstrating their skills. Kids can enjoy the pumpkin patch maze and inflatables. Like other zoos and animal parks, Lincoln Zoo staff will be using pumpkin-themed food enrichment for the animals. Check out their YouTube video about the Fall activities.

The Minnesota Zoo became famous for their fall events by bringing in a 500-pound pumpkin and let their grizzlies tear it up (video). Since then the zoo has expanded their fall celebration by creating a glowing night-time trail walk with about 5,000 of professionally carved pumpkins as this video shows.

Final Thoughts on Fall Zoo Celebrations

Autumn is a season that invites zoo professionals to leverage the unique opportunities it offers. The captivating visuals, moderate climate, and animal behavior dynamics create an environment perfect for enhancing the zoo experience. As you know, zoos are not just about entertainment; they play a crucial role in education and conservation. Fall is an excellent time to teach visitors about the importance of protecting wildlife and their habitats, and how captive animal’s lives are enhanced through enrichment. Otto Environmental is committed to providing zoo professionals with the most reliable and effective enrichment products. Please contact us with any questions regarding your enrichment needs.





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Longleat’s Newest Red Panda Cubs Settle Into Their Home

Longleat Safari Park in Wiltshire has recently unveiled new footage capturing the adorable red panda cubs as they play and acclimate to their fresh surroundings.

These cubs are part of an international breeding effort, with the Red Panda Network, aimed at conserving this rare species, with fewer than 10,000 individuals remaining in the wild.

These two young male cubs were born during the summer as a result of a successful breeding program at Longleat. As they continue to grow and develop, they will gradually venture into the outdoor environment, all while being closely monitored by their parents, Emma and Lionel, as well as the expert keepers. Take a look at this Longleat video clip of these fantastic animals.

Volunteers Help Wildlife Rescue After Flood

The staff at Oxfordshire Wildlife Rescue expressed their gratitude to volunteers who assisted in safeguarding equipment during a recent flood incident. The Rescue facility suffered structural damage due to heavy rainfall. Upon realizing that water was entering the center, founder Luke Waclawek urgently reached out to volunteers. All the animals were successfully rescued, and much equipment was salvaged. Mr. Waclawek stated, “There are compassionate individuals out there, and it’s a heartwarming sentiment.”

Litter of Five Cheetah Cubs Are Born at Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute

Carnivore keepers at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute (NZCBI) are rejoicing over a litter of five cheetah cubs born to an 8-year-old adult female named Echo. You can observe the cubs’ growth through the Cheetah Cub Cam. Animal care personnel will allow Echo to bond with and care for her cubs without disruption. During a recent weight examination, staff confirmed the presence of three males and two females among the cubs. These young cheetahs appear robust, lively, vocal, and are eating well.

NZCBI is a member of the Cheetah Breeding Center Coalition, a consortium of ten cheetah breeding centers across the United States with the goal of establishing and preserving a self-sustaining North American cheetah population in captivity. Since 2007, NZCBI has marked 81 cheetah births, and the facility presently accommodates 30 cheetahs.

Cheetahs inhabit small, isolated populations, primarily found in sub-Saharan Africa. Most of these populations are concentrated in national parks in eastern and southern Africa. Unfortunately, due to human conflicts, poaching, and the loss of their natural habitat, the cheetah population has dwindled significantly, with an estimated 7,000 to 7,500 cheetahs remaining. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has categorized cheetahs as vulnerable to extinction, highlighting the urgent need for conservation efforts to protect these magnificent creatures.

Eastern Black Rhinoceros Euthanized at Brookfield Zoo

The Chicago Zoological Society has shared the unfortunate news of the humane euthanization of Nakili, an eastern black rhinoceros who had been a long-standing resident at Brookfield Zoo. Nakili, aged 33, held the distinction of being the oldest male of his kind in an accredited North American zoo among the current eastern black rhinoceros population.

Nakili’s journey at Brookfield Zoo began in 1994 when he arrived at the age of four. For nearly thirty years, Nakili became a beloved figure for millions of zoo visitors. Joan Daniels, senior director of hoofed mammal care and conservation, expressed that Nakili was a cherished figure among the animal care staff, volunteers, and zoo enthusiasts. In August 2022, Nakili received a diagnosis of kidney disease, which was determined to be progressive and irreversible upon further evaluation. To ensure Nakili’s comfort, the animal care and veterinary teams made numerous adjustments to his healthcare regimen. However, as his blood parameters deteriorated during subsequent monitoring, it was decided, with great difficulty, to euthanize Nakili to prevent any decline in his comfort and quality of life.

The eastern black rhinoceros remains the most endangered of the three black rhinoceros subspecies, with only an estimated 740 individuals left in Africa. Poaching for their horns, which are sought after for medicinal and ornamental purposes, continues to be the primary threat to the species.

Ice Pops Cool Down Monkeys in Brazil at a Zoo in Rio During a Rare Winter Heat Wave

Upon spotting a zookeeper laden with a bucket full of fruit-flavored ice pops, black spider monkeys in Rio de Janeiro’s BioParque gracefully swung their way toward him, chattering excitedly (video). While it’s technically still winter in Brazil, with spring due to start soon, a heat wave has engulfed the country since the beginning of the week, causing humans and animals alike to eagerly greet any chance of cooling down. “Normally they get a break from the heat in the winter, but it’s been so hot. They have even shed their winter layer of fur,” said zookeeper Tadeu Cabral, who handed out some treats, while others were scattered around.

The ice pops are part of the monkeys’ well-being program. They provide thermal comfort, and dispersing the popsicles in different locations also stimulates their behavioral need for foraging. We’ve written about icy treats as environmental enrichment in a previous blog. Canines also like frozen treats to keep cool and have fun.

Otto Environmental is Here to Help!

Otto Environmental is dedicated to aiding your facility in its endeavors related to animal enrichment, and conservation. If there is anything we can do to support your zoo, laboratory, or petting farm’s care and enrichment program, please feel free to get in touch with us at your convenience.