The role of environmental enrichment in the captive breeding and reintroduction of endangered species

  • D. Shepherdson


Environmental enrichment is an increasingly popular method for improving the well-being of animals in zoos. Research has shown that simple and eminently practical changes to the way zoo animals are kept can have highly beneficial effects on their behaviour and physiology. Carlstead, Seidensticker and Baldwin (1991), for example, found that providing bears with hidden food and manipulable objects greatly increased activity and exploration at the expense of repetitive stereotyped behaviours. Similarly Kastelein and Wiepkema (1989) observed that a walrus provided with realistic foraging opportunities, namely searching for food items amongst concrete blocks, greatly reduced the amount of stereotyped swimming. Providing a kinkajou with food that required exploratory and manipulatory behaviour, by hanging whole fruit from branches as an alternative to chopped fruit in a bowl, resulted in greatly increased rates of locomotion, exploration and foraging behaviour which corresponded with reductions in the levels of stereo-typed behaviour (Shepherdson, Brownback and Tinkler, 1990). These and other successful techniques share an important characteristic: they restore to the captive animal the contingency between the performance of behaviour (foraging for example) and the appropriate consequences (such as finding food).


Environmental Enrichment Captive Breeding Captive Animal Zoological Society Survival Skill 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • D. Shepherdson
    • 1
  1. 1.Metro Washington Park ZooPortlandUSA

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