The effects of choice-based design and management on the behavior and space use of zoo-housed amur tigers (Panthera tigris altaica)

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Year of Publication:
Charles P Ritzler, Kristen E Lukas, Laura M Bernstein-Kurtycz, Diana C Koester
Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science
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Choice-based design allows animals in human care opportunities to move at will between multiple interconnected spaces. Some evidence suggests providing environmental choice confers benefits to animals, but there is a dearth of research in this area with large carnivores. To understand the effects of this design strategy on large felids, behavioral and space use data were collected on three Amur tigers housed in a new habitat at Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. Data were collected in two conditions: 1) restricted to a single habitat, and 2) access to two habitats. With choice, tigers were less frequently inactive (p = 0.003), and locomoted more frequently (p = 0.009). They also showed different preferences in space use with choice, and a strong preference for overhead runways between habitats (E* = 0.83, E* = 0.78). These results add to what is known about environmental impacts on zoo animal behavior and suggest this design and management strategy may be effective in conferring positive welfare benefits to tigers and other large carnivores.


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