Behavior and Habitat Use Remain Diverse and Variable in Modern Zoological Exhibits over the Long-Term: Case Studies in 5 Species of Ursidae

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Year of Publication:
David M Powell, Eli Baskir
Journal of Zoological and Botanical Gardens
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Long-term evaluations of whether modern zoological exhibits help to maintain variation in the behavior of zoo animals are lacking despite the hope that animals avoid falling into monotonous patterns of behavior or boredom. This study evaluated changes in behavior and habitat use over multi-year periods in nine individuals of five bear species at two zoological facilities. Behavioral data gathered over months to years were analyzed graphically for trends in the direction of change. The habitat use dynamics were assessed graphically by looking for trends in the entropy values over time. We found that the activity budgets remained diverse and were dynamic over time, more so in younger compared to older bears. Changes in behavior suggesting positive welfare were observed, while changes that may reflect declining welfare seemed more likely to be due to age or seasonality. The observed behavioral changes suggest that the bears did not become bored with their habitats; there was likely one to several hours of daily variation in behavior, and stereotypy was rare. The diversity in the habitat use decreased over time as the animals settled into patterns of use reflecting preferences for certain areas of their habitats.


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