Effects of food-based enrichment on enclosure use and behavioral patterns in captive mammalian predators: a case study from an Austrian wildlife park

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Year of Publication:
Verena Puehringer-Sturmayr, Monika Fiby, Stephanie Bachmann, Stefanie Filz, Isabella Grassmann, Theresa Hoi, Claudia Janiczek, Didone Frigerio
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Combining naturalistic enclosure design and animal welfare with visitor interests and education can be challenging for zoos and wildlife parks. To accomplish both purposes, different types of enrichment (food-based or non-food-based items, such as environmental, sensory, cognitive, social) can be used. The aim of the present study is to investigate the effect of food-based and olfactory enrichments on enclosure use, behavior, and visibility of captive brown bears (Ursus arctos), pine martens (Martes martes), domestic ferrets (Mustela putorius furo), and golden jackals (Canis aureus). Methods We used observational approaches to measure enclosure use, behavior, and visibility during three different experimental phases: (1) pre-enrichment (baseline, no experience with the enrichment yet), (2) during enrichment (enrichment was provided at low frequented locations in the enclosures that are easily visible to visitors), and (3) post-enrichment (enrichment was removed from the enclosures). Results We found that enrichment led to a uniform use of the enclosure and enhanced visibility in brown bears, increased activity budgets in pine martens, and observed high object interaction in both species. No effects of enrichment were detected in domestic ferrets. Golden jackals did not leave their burrows during daytime during the entire observation period; thus, observations were not possible at all. Our results suggest different effects of food-based enrichment, e.g., enclosure use, temporal activity patterns, and animal visibility. However, further studies should control for the specific role of the factors involved. Our study represents one of the first explorations of food-based enrichment in rather understudied species.


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