A caregiver preps a meal in the kitchen

Food Enrichment


Tatu reaches for a food bag taped to the wall

Tatu reaches for a food bag taped to the wall

Tatu picks from a salad laid out in a tire-sized salad bowl

Tatu picks from a salad laid out in a tire-sized salad bowl

A meal featuring edible flowers

A meal featuring edible flowers

Tatu uses a garden hose to get an out-of-reach treat

Tatu uses a garden hose to get an out-of-reach treat

Snowmen made from rice

Snowmen made from rice

Fruit pizza

Fruit pizza

When solving food puzzles the chimpanzees must use critical thinking skills to obtain the food. Special treats and meals are a special part of the lives of this chimpanzee family.

Some forms of food enrichment used at CHCI include:

Kool-Aid Buckets

Enrichers fill buckets with diluted Kool-Aid. They place the buckets a few feet outside of the chimpanzee enclosures and provide the chimpanzees with tubing or rubber garden hoses. The top of the container can be covered with cardboard that has a hole in it so that the chimpanzees must thread the tube or hose through the hole.

Raisin Boards

Human caretakers cut wood into six-inch lengths and drill holes at many different angles in the board. The humans then push food such as raisins into the holes and give the boards to the chimpanzees. The chimpanzees at CHCI use sticks and straws to remove the fruit from the boards.

Ice Cube Treats

Caretakers often fill ice cube trays with juice or other beverages. Human enrichers can also place bits of fruit with water or juice in the ice cube trays. They freeze them overnight and serve them to the chimpanzees.

Raisin Tubes

Enrichers cut tubing or hose into eight 12-inch lengths and use a straw to push in treats from each end of the tubing. The chimpanzees at CHCI use sticks and straws to remove the treats from the tubing.


Human enrichers fold an 18x6-inch piece of cardboard in half and in one half of the cardboard, cut a hole to hold the plastic container. They duct tape the uncut half on the ground about 18 inches from the chimpanzee enclosure, then fill the plastic container with yogurt or some other sticky substance. They place the plastic container in the hole and provide the chimpanzees with twigs long enough to reach the plastic container.

Fruit or Vegetable Forage

Caregivers place a variety of fruits and vegetables throughout all of the enclosures. The fuits and vegetables can be hidden or placed in open areas.

Foraging in Leaves or Straw

Chimpanzee caretakers place a pile of leaves or straw in the chimpanzees enclosure, then mix in raisins, dried fruit, or nuts. The chimpanzees forage for the treats in the straw or leaves.

Problem Solving

At CHCI, we sometimes tape food and enrichment items 10 feet high on a bare wall. The chimpanzees have devised ingenious ways of procuring the items.

Popcorn Forage

Enrichers fill plastic bags with popcorn and then toss the bags on the top of the chimpanzee enclosure or hang them on the side of the caging before the chimpanzees enter the area. Other treats, such as, dried cereal, dried fruit, monkey chow, primate dry or any other treat that can fit through the enclosure are sometimes added to the forage.

Snow Cones

Enrichers place snow in plastic containers and flavor with juice or syrup. Serve to chimpanzees.

Peanut Butter Paste

Add to 2 cups peanut butter any of:
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup oatmeal
1/2 cup dried fruit
1/2 cup nuts

Caretakers prepare a sticky paste by combining peanut butter, raisins, oatmeal, dried fruit, and nuts, and then smear small amounts in the chimpanzee enclosure on clean walls, climbing structures, ledges and caging. Treats that are harder to reach will often present a challenge to the chimpanzees.

Easter Egg Forage

Enrichers fill plastic eggs or containers with fruit, monkey chow, primate dry or other treats and hide the containers throughout the chimpanzees' enclosure. Taping or tying the containers closed can be more challenging for the chimpanzees.

Lettuce Forage

The caretakers cut the lettuce and produce into pieces that will fit through caging and fill the plastic bags with lettuce and produce and then toss the bags onto the top of enclosure or hang outside enclosure next to the caging.

Sunflower Seed Forage

Enrichers scatter shelled or unshelled sunflower seeds on the floor outside of chimpanzee caging or below an elevated tunnel and give the chimpanzees hoses and twigs with which they can reach the seeds. Dried cereal, dried fruit or pretzels can also serve as forage items.

Fruit Kabobs

Caregivers cut fruit into small pieces and thread on skewer or tubing.

Squirt Bottle Beverage

Enrichers put a beverage (Tea, Koolaid, Lemonade, etc.) in squirt bottle and then squirt the beverage through caging into the chimpanzees mouth.

Cardboard Tubing Wadges

The caregivers coat the inside of the tubing with yogurt and sprinkle in a few pieces of fruit or dried cereal. They cover the ends with plastic wrap and place rubber bands around the tube. They freeze the tubes and give them to the chimpanzees when frozen.

Kool-Aid Water Balloons

Humans use a funnel to place powder in the water balloons and then fill the water balloons by wrapping the balloon mouth around a faucet and slowly turning on the water. They give the filled balloons to chimpanzees through caging or place in their enclosure.

Frozen Fruit

Oranges, lemons, tangerines, apples, bananas or other fruit with or without peels are cut up and frozen whole by the caretakers and then given to chimpanzees.

Branch and Flower Forage

The caretakers scatter branches and flowers (lilac branches, cattails, willow branches, dandelions, and other edible plants) throughout the chimpanzees' enclosure, hang on caging, or place outside or on top of caging.

Frozen Plastic Bottles

The enrichers pour a few inches of water, colored water or juice into the bottom of a plastic container (preferably with a small neck) and add fruit and/or small toys. They then freeze the bottle and give the frozen bottles to the chimpanzees.


Caregivers poke a hole and insert a straw to drink the coconut milk and place whole coconuts in the chimpanzees' enclosure.


Watermelons are placed whole into the chimpanzees' enclosure.

Food Garlands

Enrichers thread food (dried or fresh fruit, candy, nuts, gum, pretzels, Fruit Loop cereal) onto strings of various lengths. They can then hang these strings of food throughout the enclosures, tying them to the inside or outside of caging, taping them to the walls, etc. The chimpanzees must problem solve - make use of tools, etc. - to obtain the treats., and place them in the chimpanzee enclosure or hang them on the fencing. At CHCI, we hang these strands on the Christmas tree outside of the chimpanzee enclosure during the holiday season.

Plastic Bottles

Plastic bottles are disinfected thoroughly and dried completely. Then the bottles are filled with shredded paper and sprinkled with various dried fruits and nuts, usually about five to ten pieces of fruit and/or nuts per bottle. The bottles are then placed in the chimpanzees enclosures. The chimpanzees will find various ways to get the fruits and/or nuts out of the bottles.

Problem Solving Boxes

Enrichment items or food are strung into a garland, which is then hung inside of a box. Additional food or enrichment items can be taped or tied to the side of the box. The box is then placed, upside down, on top of the enclosure. The chimpanzees can then use tools such as hoses or sticks to obtain the items from the puzzle boxes.

Paper Mache Coconuts

Paper mache coconuts are made by using a mixture of 3 parts water to 1 part flour. Newspapers are shredded and dipped into the mixture. The newspapers are then placed around a balloon that has been blown up to make a similar shape of a coconut, leaving an opening at the top for removal of the balloon. When the paper mache balloon has dried, usually 24 hours, remove the balloon. The coconut can be painted brown with non-toxic paints and sprinkled with brown and black small shredded pieces of paper (to simulate the hair on a coconut). Once the coconut is completely dry, shredded paper and five to ten pieces of dried fruit and/or nuts can be placed inside. The coconuts are placed in the chimpanzees enclosures. The chimpanzees will find various ways to get the fruits and/or nuts out of the coconuts.

Placing Food out of Reach

A popular food forage is taping food items (fruits or vegetables, primarily) in plastic bags to points high up on the concrete walls of the indoor and outdoor enclosures. The chimpanzees must then make use of elements of their environment -- climbing structures, hanging hoses and ropes -- and tools like sticks, ropes, and toys to obtain the food.