years ago this April, Jill Robinson first walked onto a bear bile farm. On that day in April 1993, Jill could have walked away, but she chose to act and do what she could. Today, you also have a choice. If everyone reading this donated just US$20, it would pay for the care of over 150 bears at our China sanctuary for a full year. Please help us celebrate 20 years of progress. Donate US$20 today (or whatever you can afford).
Browse is an important part of any enrichment program for nearly all species of animals in captivity.
At the China and Vietnam Bear Rescue Centres we provide our bears with browse twice daily. Up to 85% of a bear’s diet in the wild will be vegetation so providing browse is a very important supplement, particularly if the main diet lacks a variety of fruits and vegetables.
In the wild, animals such as bears spend a large part of the day foraging, and are constantly interacting with plants. Many wild animals use plants as both a source of nutrition and entertainment. They eat it, destroy it, nest in it, and play with it – and in captivity the use of browse encourages animals to display these natural behaviours. For some animals, browse will also be nutritionally important; providing variation and roughage in the animals’ diet.
However, even carnivores which do not need vegetation as part of their diet will benefit from browse as it helps to create a more natural environment for them to interact with. It does not matter if the animals do not eat every type of browse given, it can still be a great source of enrichment by providing a different smell, texture or simply a new thing to play with or nest in.
The provision of fresh browse every day for animals at a rescue centre is simple and relatively inexpensive. It is possible to buy locally, and certain types of fast growing browse can also easily be harvested or even grown on site.
In conjunction with someone with knowledge of potential toxicities, create an “approved browse list” of plant species that you know are readily available in your area, and are not going to be harmful to the animals.
Also keep a list of known toxic species of plants, which are not to be given to the animals.
Create a browse schedule or calendar. This will take into account what is available at different times of the year, and will ensure that a different browse type is given each day.
When feeding browse to the animals, think about the other general enrichment guidelines, for example, place the browse in different places each day so that the animals have to think about where to find it and take time to retrieve it.
Clean away old browse when replacing new browse – it quickly becomes damp and rotten.
Use branches, stems, trunks and leaves – it can all be enriching.
Ensure that the browse is free of dangerous chemicals such as pesticides.
Beware of things like very sharp thorns which could cause problems such as eye injuries.
Animals Asia has created our own Approved Plant Reports for our sanctuaries in China and Vietnam based on the plants available in each environment. Click on the links below to download the relevant report.