Overlooked and Under-Studied: A Review of Evidence-Based Enrichment in Varanidae

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Year of Publication:
Darcy Howard, Marianne Sarah Freeman
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Enrichment has become a key aspect of captive husbandry practices as a means of improving animal welfare by increasing environmental stimuli. However, the enrichment methods that are most effective varies both between and within species, and thus evaluation underpins successful enrichment programs. Enrichment methods are typically based upon previously reported successes and those primarily with mammals, with one of the main goals of enrichment research being to facilitate predictions about which methods may be most effective for a particular species. Yet, despite growing evidence that enrichment is beneficial for reptiles, there is limited research on enrichment for Varanidae, a group of lizards known as monitor lizards. As a result, it can be difficult for keepers to implement effective enrichment programs as time is a large limiting factor. In order for appropriate and novel enrichment methods to be created, it is necessary to understand a species’ natural ecology, abilities, and how they perceive the world around them. This is more difficult for non-mammalian species as the human-centered lens can be a hinderance, and thus reptile enrichment research is slow and lagging behind that of higher vertebrates. This review discusses the physiological, cognitive, and behavioral abilities of Varanidae to suggest enrichment methods that may be most effective.


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