Research/Care Blog

Cardboard Feeders: Green Enrichment by Adrienne Mrsny

Ndume opens one of his new cardboard feeders

Date Added: 2009-08-30

1. Introduction

Piñatas are a fun way to encourage problem solving and distribute food to the gorillas. Unfortunately, piñatas are not a suitable enrichment because of the above considerations.  When faced with the challenge of finding an alternative to piñatas, I looked to cardboard. Cardboard offers the flexibility to be made into different shapes, the durability to stand up to the roughness of a gorilla’s curiosity and the benefit of reusing a forest resource.

Shown below are two of my cardboard feeder designs, the star and fish. They are an easy and fast alternative to piñatas. They are easy to refill with food and simple to repair.  They can be made with holes so when shaken food can fall out or completely sealed closed so the gorillas have to pry the sides open to get to the food.  With colorful designs painted on them they are stimulating for the animal to look at and play with. Their applications are incredibly diverse, and they can be used for almost any terrestrial species as a simple feeder that encourages problem solving.

2. The Project

The Star and Fish feeders are typically used on holidays or special events a few times a year. They can be filled with the morning’s browse (vegetables, lettuce, fruit, etc.) or popcorn for a special treat.  I typically make 15-30 of them for a special event for our two gorillas.

By contacting a local grocery store we were able to obtain various types of boxes that were intended for their recycling. Water bottle flats and shipping boxes also work well. For larger projects, produce vendors can be contacted about donating watermelon or apple boxes. These large shipping and display boxes are 3 feet high and 4 feet long, made of triple thickness cardboard and are great for larger enrichment ideas.

The following template designs are based upon fruit/vegetable boxes.  Each item takes about 20 minutes from tracing the outline onto the box, to putting the final touches of paint on it. Painting decorations are made with nontoxic tempura children’s paint for aesthetic/stimulating value (for both human and gorilla), or left plain to give it a more natural look.   String can be attached for hanging purposes around the enclosure, from mesh or trees. Or they can be laid around the enclosure hidden amongst permanent fixtures and other enclosure items. If there is concern with the animal ingesting the string keep pieces short or don’t hang them. Additionally, Velcro sewn on ribbon is a great alternative to string and is reusable.

Schematic
Figure 1: Top view of unfolded cutouts for FISH and STAR

*The fish is a complicated design, and too long to fit in this article, photos and directions will be available on our website www.koko.org under our CAREGIVER CORNER section. If you have any questions please email me at research_feedback@koko.org.


 


3. How to Make a Cardboard STAR

Schematic
Figure 2: Steps 1-3 of Creating STAR Cutouts

STEP 1: With 1 complete fruit box (top and bottom) you can make 2 stars

STEP 2: Pry the box open at the seams, so that it is a long side that can lay flat. The seams are usually lightly glued together and can be easily pulled apart.

STEP 3: Separate the individual sides by cutting at the seams

 

Schematic
Figure 3: Step 4 of Creating Star Cutouts

STEP 4: Trace the above template out on two of the larger sides of the opened box. I recommend doing this on the side you don’t want visiblers


 

Schematic
Figure 4: Step 4 of Creating Star Cutouts

STEP 5: Cut out the design and fold the sides inward. Using a ruler helps you get a straight and tight fold. The sides that are folded over are 1.75” wide.


 

Schematic
Figure 5: Steps 6-7 of Creating Star Cutouts

STEP 6: Line up the two sides of the star, with the folded flaps on top of each other in an alternating pattern.  Using a sharp object punch a hole through both flaps, towards the center of the flap

STEP 7: Using twine, knot it then push it through the hole from inside to outside. Tie it tightly on the outside of the box. Cut any excess string, or leave long to hang the star by.


 

Schematic
Figure 6: Finishing Steps 8-10 of Creating Star Cutouts

STEP 8: Paint the star and let it dry.

STEP 9: Stuff paper in the bottom corners of the star if you are planning to hang it, so food doesn’t fall out.  Then fill with vegetables, fruit or a special treat.

STEP 10: Place the stars in the enclosure and watch your gorillas have fun investigating their new enrichment.



4. How to Make a Cardboard FISH

Schematic
Figure 7: Steps 1-3 of Creating FISH Cutouts

STEP 1: With 1 complete fruit box (top and bottom) you can make 2 stars.

STEP 2: Pry the box open at the seams, so that it is a long side that can lay flat. The seams are usually lightly glued together and can be easily pulled apart.

STEP 3: Separate the individual sides by cutting at the seams.


 

Schematic
Figure 8: Steps 4-5 of Creating FISH Cutouts

STEP 4: Trace the above template out on two of the larger sides of the opened box. I recommend doing this on the side you don’t want visible.

STEP 5: Cut out the design and fold the sides inward. Using a ruler helps you get a straight and tight fold. The sides that are folded over are 1.75” wide.


 

Schematic
Figure 9: Steps 6-7 of Creating FISH Cutouts

STEP 6: Line up the two ends of the fish tail, with one folded flaps on top of the other. Using a sharp object punch a hole through both flaps at the top and bottom of the fin.

STEP 7: Using twine, knot it then push it through the hole from inside to outside. Tie it tightly on the outside of the box. Cut any excess string.


 

Schematic
Figure 10: Steps 8-9 of Creating FISH Cutouts

STEP 8: Punch a hole through the two top flaps and attach them. String can be left long here if you want to hang the fish.

STEP 9: Fold over the two top flaps so they lay flush with the sides of the fish.


 

Schematic
Figure 11: Step 10 of Creating FISH Cutouts

STEP 10: Fold over and secure the two top front flaps with twine. Fold them so they alternate with the top flap..


 

Schematic
Figure 12: Steps 11-13 of Creating FISH Cutouts

STEP 11: Fold the front triangular flap under the flap of the same side with the flap from the opposite side on the very top. Punch a hole through the two large flaps and secure them in place with twine.

STEP 12: : Fold over the bottom two flaps so they alternate with the bottom front flaps and secure with twine.

STEP 13: Fold in the two back flaps so they are flush with the fish.

 

Schematic
Figure 13: Steps 14-15 of Creating FISH Cutouts

STEP 14: Paint the fish and let it dry.

STEP 15: Fill the fish with vegetables, fruit or a special treat by pulling open the top flaps near the back fin.


 

Schematic
Figure 14: Final Step 16 of Creating FISH Cutouts

STEP 16: Place the fish in the enclosure and watch your gorillas have fun investigating their new enrichment.



5. Results

The design was improved to it is present looks, based upon the observations of the gorillas interaction with them.  When each animal was introduced to the item, a caregiver filled out a record sheet tracking the gorillas’ interaction. The caregivers numerically ranked how successful it was according to: individual/group response, duration of interest, and safety concerns. Based upon this, adjustments were made to optimize the effectiveness of the design.

Both gorillas knew when the enrichment was being put in the yard and become visibly excited, gesturing and vocalized to be let out into the yard. Success was gauged by interest in the items along with determination and time taken to access the contents. The feeders proved successful since the gorillas came back to it throughout the day to see if they overlooked any food. Our silverback (Ndume, shown above) was seen carrying one of the cardboard fish around throughout the day.

Designs could be easily made larger or smaller to accommodate other animals and primates. It is a fun and easy craft for staff or volunteers that can be made as simple or complex to fit the species’ needs.


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