Enriching the lives of animals one token at a time.
What it is
The Animal Vending Machine is a device that is an automated search-and-find game for animals. Animals must search their environment for hidden tokens and bring them back to the vending machine for a food reward.
What it does
Our unique enrichment device is battery powered and accepts circular PVC tokens in exchange for a small amount of food. The vending machine is compatible with dried fruits, nuts, cereals, and grains.
Why it's Needed
Animals living in captivity need ways to express natural behaviors to keep their brains and bodies active. Without activities to engage in, animals can get stressed and bored.
Why it works
Our patent-pending Animal Vending Machine combats boredom in captive animals by encouraging them to be active, explore their enclosures, and solve problems similar to those they’d encounter in the wild.
WHy a Vending Machine?
Our patent-pending Animal Vending Machine was originally designed for great apes (like orangutans, gorillas, and chimps) because these animals spend a huge amount of their time foraging for food in the wild. Their survival depends on remembering where to find food in the forest, how to get there, and which routes to avoid. Zoo and sanctuary-dwelling apes’ lives don’t depend on their mental and physical capabilities—they’ll get fed and cared for anyways. While these animals live incredibly comfortable lives, they can get bored or stressed if they are not challenged both mentally and physically. Boredom and stress in great apes can manifest as pulling out hair, picking at skin, pacing, and rocking back and forth.
The vending machine simulates what apes do in the wild—forage for food. To emulate this natural foraging behavior, tokens are placed throughout an animal’s enclosure. They can be scattered in plain sight, hidden in substrates, frozen in blocks of ice, or even put in puzzles and toys. Apes have to use their mental and physical abilities to find these tokens, bring them back to the vending machine, and exchange them for a food reward of nuts, popcorn, dried fruits, or cereal. When apes search for tokens, they perform natural behaviors like climbing, swinging, searching, problem solving, and tool use—and time spent performing natural behaviors is less time spent bored or inactive.
Our pilot Animal Vending Machine is at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs, where it is used with their resident orangutans. Pilot testing has gone very well, and we will be rolling out our next round of prototype machines to five different zoos in the US and Canada in fall 2021. These machines will undergo further testing, and once complete, we expect to bring the Animal Vending Machine to market for purchase.