Is item hiding a good enrichment strategy to reduce stereotypic behaviors and increase social interactions in captive female spectacled bears?

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Year of Publication:
Ana Julia Sant'Ana Correa, Erick Mateus Barros, Vinicius Marques Lopez, Rhainer Guillermo-Ferreira
Journal of Veterinary Behavior
, , ,

Enrichment strategies are widely used to create stimuli to improve welfare of captive animals. A common strategy is to offer food items that provide physical, olfactory, and gustatory stimuli, by hiding these items or spreading them throughout the enclosure. Although both strategies are recommended as efficient in reducing stereotypic behaviors, few studies compare their effectiveness and the effects of zoo visitors on bears. The objective of this study was to analyze the effect of these enrichment strategies on the behavior of spectacled bears, Tremarctos ornatus, in captivity and under the influence of visiting people. We observed the effects of enrichment and human visitation on the presence of stereotypic behavior (excessive self-grooming, pacing and head twists), foraging and social behaviors, which may be indicative of animal welfare status. We considered an increase in exploratory/foraging and positive social behaviors and a decrease in stereotypic behaviors as indicators of improved animal welfare. Observations were made between August and October 2018, in the Ecological Park of São Carlos, Brazil, which had three female bears. The results suggest that both strategies were efficient in stimulating bear behavior. Our results refute one of the initial hypotheses suggesting that the presence of visitors do not affect the adoption of these enrichment strategies. We suggest the application of different enrichment strategies to complement the diet of captive bears, as well as actions to reduce the adverse effects of human visitors.


Back to Resources