Conservation, Collaboration, Community.

The American Association of Zoo Keepers (AAZK) is a membership association for animal care professionals comprised of numerous local chapters throughout the world. The mission of AAZK is to advance excellence in the animal keeping profession, foster effective communication beneficial to animal care, support deserving conservation projects, and promote the preservation of our natural resources and animal life.

Cheyenne Mountain Zoo’s local AAZK chapter is dedicated to the preservation of wildlife and wild places by promoting community awareness and the professional growth of its members. We accomplish these goals by hosting annual fundraising events that provide funds to various worldwide conservation organizations, sponsor professional development opportunities for our members, and connect us with members of the local community.

Local AAZK Highlights

Take a look at who we are and what we do at CMZoo.

AAZK Events & Fundraisers

Please Note: Bowling for Rhinos and Art on the Hoof 2020 have been cancelled due to COVID-19.

Conservation Connections

AAZK plays a major role in the conservation of wildlife and wild places. Our chapter at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo sponsors two core conservation organizations that are nominated by members as legacy projects to receive funding over the course of a three-year period. Members may also nominate additional organizations to receive funding or support on a case by case basis.

HIghlights of organizations AAZK of CMZoo chapter is currently sponsoring:.


AAZK – Animal Enrichment at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo

by Dina Bredahl -Area Supervisor, Primate World, Monkey Pavilion & Conservation Barn

Enrichment of exotic animal species in zoos is important for several reasons.

Ideally it exercises the mind and body of the animal. These animals have to work hard to survive in the wild. Many animals have to graze, browse, hunt or forage for food for many hours every day. This often involves being physically active and mentally challenged for a large portion of their waking hours. We try to simulate this in captivity as often as possible.

  • If an animal is given a special feeder that requires tool use or manipulation in order to access the “treats,” this is more challenging, time consuming and rewarding than simply putting the treat in a food bowl.
  • If we freeze pineapples and cantaloupes for the bears, it keeps them busy as they gnaw and dig at them.
  • All the primates like bobbing for apples or other fruits.
  • Large rawhide bones keep the lions busy for long periods, while blood-sicles are fun for the tigers.
  • The otters get fresh oysters or clams to spur on their feeding instincts.
  • Many animals will work for food-rewards by doing trained behaviors that can assist with veterinary procedures.
  • Many animals, such as goats, apes, elephants, monkeys, giraffes, and bears, enjoy getting browse.  Browse consists of tree branches cut from non-toxic trees. Most animals eat the leaves, and some even eat the bark as well.
  • Paper mache piñatas are fun for the animals, whether or not “treats” are hidden inside.
  • For tree-dwelling species, such as orangutans, an ice treat (which is frozen kool-aid with nuts, fruit and berries inside) on top of their enclosure or skylight keeps them active and arboreal for hours.

There are other ways to provide enrichment that do not involve food.

An overfed animal is not a healthy animal!

Scent enrichment is a great way to temporarily change an animal’s environment… the better the animal’s sense of smell, the more effective this is. Lemurs do a lot of scent marking in the wild, so they react to perfume sprayed on their trees. The wolves show a lot of interest in buck urine. The komodo dragon gets very active when vanilla extract is sprayed in her exhibit. When the lions receive a big pile of elephant feces in their enclosure, they will actually roll in it. In the wild they do this to mask their own scent, so prey species don’t smell a lion approaching (they smell an elephant!).

We “recycle” a lot of animal materials. The primates enjoy playing with colorful bird feathers and the feline species will hunt down patches of goat hair or snake sheds hidden in their exhibit. By changing an animal’s environment, they are stimulated to explore and use their senses. Simply turning on a sprinkler or playing tropical bird calls can be very enriching.

Another non-food type of enrichment is “toys”. This can vary widely; boomer balls and other sturdy plastic products come in all shapes and sizes. A new log can be loads of fun for the mangabeys or bears to debark and find insects. A milk crate can keep the orangutans busy for hours.we have observed them using milk crates as stools and hats; they will stuff their entire bodies in crates; and they have even hauled large quantities of mulch from outdoors to indoors using a milk crate. Grain bags are fun to rip up or use as an umbrella.

Finally, it is very enriching to change an animal’s perch, trees, or rope. The apes use their firehose hammocks and hanging barrels all the time, and many animals enjoy sunning or climbing on a hanging platform.

Every enrichment idea is first submitted as a written proposal, which is submitted for the approval of the animal management and veterinary staff to make sure that the item or idea is safe for the animals. Aside from safety factors, animal enrichment ideas are only limited by a lack of imagination!


Additional Resources: