About Us

We are 100% volunteer and 501(c)(3) non-profit. All funds are used to support the animals.

Most zoos and aquariums are privately owned not-for-profits or rely on donations and memberships to supplement their limited budgets. Animal Enrichment Systems builds these devices at no cost to the facilities. You can help by donating here to help us continue to provide safe, quality enrichment that the animals need and enjoy!  We greatly appreciate donations of any amount. Thank you for your support.

Don and Cindy Lang have always loved animals.  They spend much of their free time observing animals in their wild habitats, learning about them in educational zoos and sanctuaries, and caring for their three rescue dogs.   Whether it’s planting a pollinator garden, volunteering with the local sea turtle preservation society, or engaging with the animal trainers and keepers at zoos and aquariums, Don and Cindy have a strong connection to nature.

A natural extension of those conversations started coming in the form of requests from animal caretakers and zoologists searching for better, more enriching activities and habitats for the animals in their care.  Those interactions sparked Don and Cindy’s interest in designing, building, and delivering environmental enrichment device systems (EEDS) free of charge. Starting with the Dolphin Research Center, these efforts quickly expanded to include the Clearwater Marine Aquarium and Zoo Tampa.  As the demand increased for these products, the idea to form a non-profit was born as a way of funding these devices. 

Animal Enrichment Systems (AES) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit. AES is 100% volunteer-operated, so all donations go directly to providing enrichment to the animals that need it. 

Every EED is custom-made for each facility.  The process starts with brainstorming with the animal caregivers and touring the animals’ habitats.  That provides the opportunity to learn more about the animals and observe their natural behaviors to get ideas.   Once Don has developed a design, he builds the devices in his garage during his spare time on nights and weekends.    During the design and development of every EED, safety is a paramount consideration.  Don and Cindy test All EEDs prior to delivery. In addition, before any EED is introduced to an animal, the zoo staff approves it for use in the animal’s environment. 

As the environment declines for many creatures living in the wild, their extinction may only be avoided by maintaining a breeding population in zoos and aquariums.  Enrichment for these animals provides an interesting, fulfilling life in human care.  Please help us help the animals.

Where it all began: As long-time members of Dolphin Research Center in the Florida Keys, Don and Cindy spent so much time there with their dogs that they became part of the DRC family. This led to discussions with senior staff about the dolphins’ needs for entertainment. Don decided to combine his love of animals and knowledge of engineering to fill this need.

Don’s first attempt was a water fountain mounted to a floating dock that the dolphins would activate by a paddle.  The fountain was powered by a 12-volt underwater pump.  Being so intelligent and curious, the dolphins took less than 5 minutes to start pressing the paddle. Unfortunately, the dolphins did not play very long, as they did not like the sound of the pump running under water.

After experimenting with a couple different designs, Don found that using a garden hose and various valves was pleasing to the dolphins. Using this new information, Don launched a re-build of a device that became known as DESy (Dolphin Enrichment System). This unit was attached to the floating docks and had paddles that, when pressed in the correct sequence, provided ice cubes, plain gelatin, underwater air bubbles, and a water fountain. The dolphins loved it!  The DRC team presented DESy at the Miami IMATA (International Marine Animal Trainer’s Association) Conference.  DESy won that year for best marine mammal enrichment.

Coming to Clearwater: While watching Saturday morning animal shows on TV, a program aired featuring a baby dolphin calf named Hope. The aquarium, Clearwater Marine Aquarium (CMA), was able to save and hand-raise the very young orphaned dolphin calf.  Because of the Langs’ experience with dolphins, it was obvious that this was an amazing feat and prompted a trip to meet this miracle baby dolphin.  At Clearwater Marine Aquarium (Home of Winter, another rescued dolphin), Hope was found living in a large round pool with an underwater platform. She had plenty of floating toys but preferred to blow bubbles under the platform and chase them to the surface. Watching this behavior prompted a conversation with an intern about the intelligence and creativity of dolphins. Naturally, the conversation got around to a description of the EEDs created for DRC. The intern said, “Don’t you move! I’m going to get one of the trainers to come out and talk to you.”

After talking to the trainer, it was agreed that Don would develop an EED for both Hope and Winter. Since Hope was so interested in chasing bubbles, the EED created generated both soap bubbles above the surface and air bubbles 15 feet below the surface. The paddle to activate the EED was attached to a unit that mounted to the side of the pool. When the paddle was pressed, bubbles would be generated for 30 seconds. The dolphin would need to press the paddle again to start another 30 second session. The EED’s challenge for the dolphins was that the underwater bubbles were located up to 30 feet away from the paddle. The dolphins had to realize that something on one side of the pool made something happen on the other side. It only took young Hope about 15 minutes to figure this out. Hope then taught Winter how to use it by example.

After creating the EED for Winter and Hope, Don also developed a toy for Nicholas, the rescued male dolphin at Clearwater Marine Aquarium (CMA). This EED had paddles that would play music when pressed by his rostrum. The trainers could play musical patterns on their portion of the machine that Nicholas could copy.

Expanding our reach. As the success of the Dolphin’s EEDs became clear, the Langs began to broaden their horizons and work with other animals, starting with North American River Otters. The EED created for the otters had a box with buttons that the otters could press with their noses. This EED’s features included dispensing floating balls, fish, and a water spray. The EED would also play an enticing “ta da da CHARGE” sound that meant the items would be dispensed.

In the Spring of 2018, a call came from Sue at Zoo Tampa. She previously worked at CMA Marine Aquarium and was familiar with the EEDs the Langs had built. When she asked if they were interested in creating EEDs for some of the terrestrial animals at the zoo, the answer was a resounding “Yes!”  The Langs’ first trip to the zoo included a discussion with staff and an initial introduction to two fuzzy sloth bears.  The first EED designed and built for Zoo Tampa was for the bears, followed by EEDs for the primates and elephants. The descriptions of the EEDs can be found on the animal pages.

Zoo Tampa’s resident black bears received an EED that has a button that the bears can push against their habitat fence.  This EED can dispense a variety of unsalted nuts and seeds.  

The next project for Zoo Tampa will be EEDs for the Aviary Department. This EED will be a mobile perch with integrated enrichment including food dispenser, water shower, fan, and music. As a mobile perch, this may be used during public encounters throughout the zoo at various locations.

How you can help. CLICK HERE to join our mission to help animals in human care in zoos/educational centers.  We are 100% volunteer; all materials and labor are bought by our founding members, Don and Cindy Lang.