Making a Tiger’s Day: Free-Operant Assessment and Environmental Enrichment to Improve the Daily Lives of Captive Bengal Tigers (Panthera tigris tigris)

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Year of Publication:
Michael Clayton, Trista Shrock
Behavior Analysis in Practice
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There are more captive tigers in the United States than there are wild tigers in the entire world. Many animals under human care engage in problem behaviors such as excessive grooming and aggression, although the origin of these behaviors is typically unknown. Environmental enrichment may mitigate these issues in captive animals of all kinds. In order to individualize enrichment experiences, the current study used a free-operant assessment procedure to establish a menu of most preferred play items and scents among 7 Bengal tigers (Panthera tigris tigris) housed at a sanctuary in southwest Missouri. Each tiger was tested 3 times with scents (cinnamon and Calvin Klein Obsession perfume) and play items (boxes, balls, leaves, and pumpkins). The importance of rigorous assessment of presumed reinforcers among captive wild animals, as well as the difficulty of effectively assessing tigers while ensuring the safety of both the participants and researchers, is discussed.


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