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Zoo habitats and wellbeing

It's not enough for a zoo habitat to just look naturalistic. It needs to give animals choices, challenges and opportunities to engage in their natural behaviors.

harbor seal diving

orangutan hanging upside down from rope

More than two thousand animals live at the Oregon Zoo, and each species has specific needs. Orangutans need to climb high, salmon need cold, clear water and lions need to live in a pride.

Using welfare science, habitat designers incorporate features that draw out each species' natural behaviors. At Elephant Lands, for instance, randomly timed feeders placed throughout the habitat encourage elephants to stay on the move.

New habitats are being completely reinvented to better suit species' needs. Polar bears thrive where they can see long distances. To accomplish this, Polar Passage was transformed from a concrete basin into a hill overlooking the zoo.

Some species, like tigers, are solitary. Others, like elephants, are more social. All of our decisions about how we group animals are based on creating the best social environment for them. Habitats are also designed to allow animals to be out of the weather or away from people when they choose to do so.