The Effects of Live Feeding on Swimming Activity and Exhibit Use in Zoo Humboldt Penguins (Spheniscus humboldti)

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Year of Publication:
Eduardo J Fernandez, Mark Myers, Nancy C Hawkes
Journal of Zoological and Botanical Gardens
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Penguins are considered among the most popular animals for zoo and aquarium visitors to observe. Swimming is considered a desirable activity, both for the visitor experience and the welfare of the penguins. However, little is known about the amount of time exhibited penguins spend swimming, or how such swimming is related to regular feeding events. We examined the effects of introducing live prey in the form of trout on 22 Humboldt penguins living at the Woodland Park Zoo. Of primary interest was how the live feeds changed (1) daily and hourly swimming activity, and (2) variability in enclosure use. We hypothesized that the live feedings would increase swimming activity prior to and during the delivery of the live trout, as well as create an overall increase in total swimming activity for live feed days compared to non-live feed days. We also predicted that the penguins would be more likely to use the entire exhibit around these live feeds, since they are likely to chase fish throughout the exhibit. Penguins did show an increase in swimming activity in the hour prior to and during the live feed, with a small decrease in swimming activity following the live feed when compared to non-live feed days. There was also a more than 30% increase in the total swimming activity for live feed days when compared to all other non-live feed days. In addition, a single measure of variability in enclosure use (entropy) showed greater overall enclosure use for the live feed days compared to the non-live feed days. These results demonstrate that live fish can be a useful way of enriching the behavioural welfare of Humboldt penguins.


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