Investigating the Effect of Enrichment on the Behavior of Zoo-Housed Southern Ground Hornbills

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Year of Publication:
James Edward Brereton, Mark Nigel Geoffrey Myhill, James Ali Shora
Journal of Zoological and Botanical Gardens
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Enrichment is essential for the welfare of many zoo-housed animals, yet the value of enrichment is not well understood for all taxa. As an intelligent, long-lived species, the southern ground hornbill (Bucorvus leadbeateri) is a good model for enrichment research. A pair of southern ground hornbills, housed at Beale Wildlife Park and Gardens, were observed during study periods in 2014, 2018, and 2019. Three types of enrichment were provided for the birds; these enrichment types were developed based on information on the habits of the species as found in natural history papers. The enrichment types consisted of a pile of twigs, small animal carcasses, and plastic mirrors. Overall, the carcass feeds and the mirrors resulted in the greatest changes in behavior, with hornbills engaging in long periods of food manipulation with carcasses. For the mirror condition, hornbills spent time stalking around and pecking at mirrors, similar to the ‘window smashing’ behavior seen in wild hornbills. Overall, the research suggests that not only can enrichment modify the behavior of southern ground hornbills, but non-nutritional enrichment may be equally valuable to the animals. Natural history papers may have some value in inspiring novel enrichment items for zoo-housed animals.


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