Effects of Complex Feeding Enrichment on the Behavior of Captive Malayan Sun Bears (Helarctos malayanus)

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Year of Publication:
Yasmeen Ghavamian, Darren E Minier, Karin Enstam Jaffe
Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science
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All zoos grapple with challenges of keeping captive animals engaged in natural behaviors, especially for bears which prove to be among the more challenging species to keep stimulated. In captivity, a common indicator of poor welfare is the presence of stereotypic behaviors. This study tests whether providing complex feeding enrichment devices decreases the duration of stereotypic behavior and increases enrichment interaction for three adult female sun bears (Helarctos malayanus) at Oakland Zoo in California. This study uses two different enrichment devices presented at three complexity levels. After three weeks of baseline data collection when no complex enrichment is present, the complex enrichment is introduced three times a week per level over six weeks. Sun bear interaction with the enrichment devices is also measured to examine the effect of complexity on enrichment use. Providing complex enrichment decreased the duration of stereotypic behavior when compared to baseline. Across the six weeks, the duration of stereotypic behavior is significantly less on the complex enrichment days compared to non-complex enrichment days. The complex enrichment has variable effects on enrichment use. These results suggest that providing complex enrichment may have a positive influence on the behavior of captive bears.


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