Environmental Enrichment

Scientific Papers

© Rory Harper

Can colored object enrichment reduce the escape behavior of captive freshwater turtles? (Bannister et al., 2021)

February 2021

A new study in Zoo Biology looked into the effects of enrichment (coloured objects, with & without fish scent) on the behaviour of aquarium-housed freshwater turtles:

Presence of coloured objects reduced escape behaviour;

Fish-scented objects attracted more interest;

Large individual differences in the behavioural response to enrichment;

Fish-scented, coloured objects have the potential to be beneficial for captive turtles, but individual monitoring is recommended.

Assessing preferences of two zoo‐housed Aldabran giant tortoises (Aldabrachelys gigantea) for three stimuli using a novel preference test (Learmonth et al., 2020)

December 2020

A case study investigated the preferences of two Aldabran giant tortoises for three different stimuli/enrichment (human interaction, food and a red boomer ball):

One tortoise preferred food + ball while avoiding human interactions altogether;

The other tortoise preferred food + human interactions;

Stimuli/enrichment preferences show individual variation and depend on several factors.


Photo credit: Zoos Victoria

Using longitudinal data to evaluate the behavioural impact of a switch to carcass feeding on an Asiatic lion (Panthera leo persica) (Finch et al., 2020)

October 2020

What is the long-term behavioural impact of carcass feeding on zoo-housed Asiatic lions? A lioness at Chester Zoo showed the following behavioural changes 12 months after the diet change:
Reduction in pacing;
Increase in resting behaviour;
Increase in feeding-related behaviours, shortly after & 12 months after the diet change.


Photo credit: Chester Zoo


A persistent abnormal repetitive behaviour in a false water cobra (Hydrodynastes gigas) (Michaels et al., 2020)

November 2020

Fresh new paper looked into stereotypic behaviour in captive false water cobras:
Observed fixed pattern of movement against viewing window identified as potential stereotypy;
Snake spent some time in this repetitive behaviour, which was also reported by another zoo;
The enrichment used did not reduce the behaviour's frequency or changed the snakes' use of the enclosure.


Photo credit: Smithsonian's National Zoo


Development of an environmental enrichment programme: case study of white Bengal tiger (Panthera tigris bengalensis) and jaguar (Panthera onca) at Moscow Zoo (Podturkin & Papaeva, 2020)

April 2020

A study investigated the effect of daily and every other day enrichment provision on the behaviour of a zoo-housed tiger and jaguar, using a time efficient, keeper-friendly, methodology:

Increase in enrichment-directed behaviours in both animals;

No significant effects on general activity - small sample size?

Methodology allowed keepers to implement & evaluate enrichment programme.

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