Page 34 - Chiron Spring/Summer 2023
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 Zoo behavioural husbandry
by Mr N Allsopp
Behavioural Enrichment is the component of daily animal care focused on how animals
interact with their physical and social environment.
If you imagine a circle 10% of what an animal knows is taught behaviour, 15% is learnt behaviour – usually from observation of
its parents and 75% is natural behaviour or inherited behaviour.
All zookeepers contribute to
the success of the behavioural husbandry programs, having a behaviour specialist on your team allows you to continually use recent research findings to develop new ways of changing behaviour, and then evaluate the success.
The base of an institution’s enrichment program should
start with the development of the philosophy which should involve input from all partners involved
in the program (e.g., animal care staff, veterinarian, nutritionist, and scientists).
Set behavioural goals and evaluate and adjust throughout the animal’s life. Many considerations may influence enrichment goals for your animals, including their biological, social and cognitive needs. consider the frequency and variety of behaviours for an animal in a typical day, week, month or year could vary considerably.
For example, to encourage
hunting, we want to promote the behaviours that may occur during hunting such as listening, stalking, chasing, running, pouncing, diving, jumping and catching.
Providing such things as a mud bath for a Rhino or Hippo, other Ungulates such as species Equine enjoy a dust bath. These are all natural behaviours which can be duplicated within an exhibit.
Habitats should be designed to be complex, dynamic environments that have interactive components. Views of other animals or are home to multiple species. A choice in temperature ranges, cover, moisture, concealment and barriers from conspecifics that align with nature.
A species that utilizes their snouts for rooting, carrying, pushing, and social interactions. This natural rooting behaviour keeps the
animal active and engaged in their environment throughout the day, to encourage foraging and specifically rooting behaviours, try a puzzle feeder. The design of shape of a puzzle feeder, and how food items are obtained is based on the natural foraging behaviour of the focus species.
Foraging for food can come in many practices, the whole idea is for the animal not to find its reward
to quickly, to have to use natural digging behaviour, natural scent behaviour to locate it, all they while occupying its mind. It also encourages competition and social hierarchy interaction.
Repurposing materials can be an easy to obtain and cost-effective form of enrichment for a variety
of animal species. For example (ensuring disease prevention) you can exchange bedding from one large Cat exhibit to another, the same with faeces and urine. I have even exchanged Rhino urine with another zoo, it causes a very strong territorial response.
Providing appropriate opportunities for our animals to thermoregulate and hydrate during the summer can be difficult. Ice treats are often a preferred method to stimulate these behaviours. To prevent boredom, we repurposed a five-gallon insulated cooler. This giant ice block was given to both Elephants and Polar bears, placing it in the swimming pool, it not only caused them to enter the water but encourages play within the water.
Ungulates such as Hartman’s Mountain zebra, wildebeest, and Somali wild ass convert the excess
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