Crowdfunding toys for zoo-rhinos

Bethany writes, "San Francisco Zoo is partnering with an engineering team and a San Francisco startup to crowdfund the building of novel high-tech enrichments for the zoo's male rhinos."

They need $15K to build a giant food-dispensing ball (a "foobler") that will stimulate and maintain the rhinos' foraging instincts.

Animals need to engage with their environment to maximize their psychological well-being. One of the easiest ways to accomplish this in zoos is to make animals 'work' for their food, which can entail simple things like making them search their enclosure for food instead of putting food in the same place at the same time everyday.

The Foobler prompts pets to investigate and manipulate the toy to get food out. In this way, cats or dogs are prompted to 'work' to obtain their food. Although carnivores and herbivores work differently to obtain food, the psychological need for exploration and foraging is similar across species. We will assess the rhinos' behavior to see how it changes when given a novel, dynamic foraging opportunity compared to scheduled daily feedings.

Using high-tech toys to improve foraging in captive rhinos