Soft Release Program

This page was brought to you by the Suncoast Science Center/Faulhaber Fab Lab’s 2022 Sarasota County Innovation Program (SCIP).

What is Soft Release?

Soft release is the gradual introduction of an animal into an environment before its eventual permanent release. It’s a slow and time-consuming process that allows the animal to return to a comfortable and familiar resting place until it is ready to be entirely independent in the wild. Soft release is best suited and ideal for young, hand-raised animals. Because the young do not have any adults of their species to help them learn basic survival skills, they must learn through trial-and-error, which requires more time and protection. Thus, soft release gives the animal the highest chance of survival. 

What is Enrichment?

Animal enrichment is the process of giving captive animals some kind of real-world stimulation to encourage natural behaviors. This helps the animals to improve or maintain their physical and mental health. In simple terms, enrichment is to give the animal something to do that makes them happy and healthy. There are five categories of animal enrichment: social, cognitive, physical habitat, sensory, and food. Social enrichment is anything that incorporates social interactions, often with other live animals. Cognitive enrichment is anything that makes the animal become challenged or become curious. Physical habitat enrichment is when something is added to make their habitat more comfortable and/or fun. Sensory enrichment is anything that stimulates an animal’s senses, like scratch boards or moving toys. Finally, food enrichment involves either new food or different ways for the animals to get the food.

Click on one of the signs below to get to a habitat specific page!

Members of the Fab Lab’s Student Community Innovation Program have partnered with the Crowley Museum and Nature Center to raise awareness about wildlife conservation.

About SCIP

In the summer of 2022, the Student Community Innovation Program (SCIP) partnered with the Crowley Museum and Nature Center to raise awareness and improve local wildlife conservation initiatives. Twenty students from local schools: Polytechnical High School, Pine View School, Riverview High School, Sarasota High School, and Venice High School worked together to undertake this imperative project.

Students modernized the farmstead, initially established in 1878, by leveraging their youthful perspectives and using their access to the Fab Lab’s state-of-the-art technology to build wildlife habitats on the property. The three habitats revamped on Crowley’s property include a permanent aviary and two soft release habitats for small mammals. The newly remodeled habitats provide the animals with shelter, food, water and enrichment.

This project connects the community with local wildlife and emphasizes the importance of conservation. Now in its third year, SCIP provides local students with an opportunity to give back to their community through a real-world learning experience. Throughout this summer, students built technical skills as well as critical leadership and life skills like collaboration, project management and problem-solving that helps prepare them for success in college and future careers.