Student Summer Scholars
 

Title

Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh my! Assessing Enrichment Protocols for Carnivores at the John Ball Zoo

First Advisor

Jodee Hunt

Keywords

Enrichment, carnivores, zoo animals, behavior

Disciplines

Biology

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Abstract

Enrichment programs can benefit the well-being of animals in zoos by stimulating positive behaviors (e.g., play, social, and territorial behaviors) and reducing the frequency and intensity of negative or stereotypic behaviors (e.g., pacing, increased aggression). Understanding the effects of enrichment on behavior of captive animals enables animal keepers and curators to optimize the benefits of their enrichment programs. We explored the effects of enrichment on the frequency and duration of positive and negative behaviors in five species of large carnivore in a medium-sized Midwestern zoo. Species differed notably in their total activity, ranging from a mean of 10% to >70%, with positive behaviors being exhibited more often than negative ones. Enrichment utilized in this study consisted of food, sensory, and manipulable objects, and the different times of day included were morning, mid-day, afternoon, and end-of-day. Presentation of enrichment had an inconsistent effect on positive and negative behaviors, except in individual Grizzly Bears. We conclude that the complexity of most enclosures at this zoo provide a rich, positive environment for the animals, as pacing was the only negative or stereotypic behavior observed in the five study species. Enclosure features that replicated natural settings or added spatial complexity appeared to influence behavior strongly. Based on these data, we recommend continuing enrichment in addition to efforts to enhance the spatial and sensory complexity of enclosures. Both these enrichment protocols and enclosure features appeared to not only enhance the well-being of the animals, but also enhance the engagement of zoo visitors.