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Sniffing Around

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Animal Updates | Reptiles | Enrichment

Tuesday, January 07, 2014


Sniffing Around
Borrego, the desert tortoise, sniffs around his sun enclosure for interesting scents.  | AnnMarie Riggle

We’ve seen puzzles for the birds and special to treats for the mammals, but what about the reptiles, like our snakes and tortoises? Do they get enrichment too? Yes! We provide them with new things that spark their curiosity and challenge their minds just like our birds and mammals.

Often, enrichments for our reptiles involve food, but scents can be just as intriguing. We occasionally give unique scents to reptiles like our king snake, Elvis, and observe as he comes out—tongue flicking every which way—to investigate. Enrichment Intern, AnnMarie, tried a similar scent enrichment for our California desert tortoise, Borrego.

Out in Borrego’s sun enclosure, there are many objects—like rocks and wood pieces—that have become pretty commonplace to him. As a normal part of his landscape, he hardly gives them a second thought other than to maneuver around them. They’re not really enriching, they’re just there. AnnMarie decided to rub fresh basil, a scent Borrego would not normally encounter, on a few of these objects and see if it would spark his interest.

AnnMarie rubbed basil on three of the rock and wood pieces, randomly placed around Borrego’s sunning area. Then she placed Borrego down on the grass among them. Borrego sat still for a moment. Then slowly turned his head directly toward one of the smells… and took off (as fast as a tortoise can go anyway)! He seemed quite intrigued by the smell. Halfway towards one object with scent, he appeared to catch a whiff of the scent on the rock and stopped, as though deciding which direction to go. Borrego sat stretching his neck out towards the different scents. He finally positioned himself right between two of the scented objects and settled in place, while continuing to sniff around. It smells best right here, I think I’m going to stay.

While the reptile enrichments may not be as complex as a bird puzzle or mammal toy, they still prompt the animals to investigate, explore and enjoy!

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