Cognitive Enrichment in Practice: A Survey of Factors Affecting Its Implementation in Zoos Globally

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Year of Publication:
Belinda A Hall, David M McGill, Sally L Sherwen, Rebecca E Doyle
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Information on the practical use of cognitive enrichment in zoos is scarce. This survey aimed to identify where cognitive enrichment is being used while identifying factors that may limit its implementation and success. Distributed in eight languages to increase global range, responses to this survey (n = 177) show that while agreement on what constitutes cognitive enrichment is poor, it is universally perceived as very important for animal welfare. Carnivores were the animal group most reported to receive cognitive enrichment (76.3%), while amphibians and fish the least (16.9%). All animal groups had a percentage of participants indicating animal groups in their facility were not receiving cognitive enrichment when they believe that they should (29.4–44.6%). On average, factors relating to time and finance were rated most highly in terms of effect on cognitive enrichment use, and keeper interest was the highest rated for effect on success. Results of this study indicate that cognitive enrichment is perceived as important. However, placing the responsibility of its development and implementation on animal keepers who are already time-poor may be impeding its use. A commitment to incorporating cognitive enrichment into routine husbandry, including financial support and investment into staff is needed from zoos to ensure continued improvement to captive animal welfare.


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