National Zoo Otters Play With Keyboards as Part of Enrichment Program

Keyboard Cat has nothing on the National Zoo's Keyboard Otters.

As part of the Washington zoo's animal enrichment program, the Asian small-clawed otters get the chance to create their own music. Their keyboard experiences began on a cold day over the winter when they weren't allowed to go outside -- so one of the keepers brought in a keyboard from home to keep them busy.

The zoo's enrichment program provides the animals with mentally and physically stimulating activities, including iPads for the apes and harmonicas for the elephants. (One of them, Shanthi, has already demonstrated great talent).

Keepers say the goal of the program is to let the animals choose how they want to behave within their environments. The otters can play with the keyboard if they want to, but the activity isn't required.

The zoo says it also provides enrichment activities in a variety of other ways, including olfactory (keepers introduce natural predator or prey scents), food (by hiding food or using puzzle feeders), and introducing novel objects like burlap bags, chew toys or hamocks.

This Saturday, the zoo will host Enrichment Day from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Keepers will be in front of the Elephant Community Center and throughout the zoo talking about the program, and visitors will be able to touch the objects that the animals use.

Contact Us