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Activity and enrichment use in disabled Asiatic black bears (Ursus thibetanus) rescued from bile farms

By J. A. Dallaire, N. Field, G. J. Mason

Category Journal Articles

Physical disability has the potential to impede the use of environmental enrichments in rehabilitation programmes. We therefore compared the behaviour of 63 disabled and non-disabled socially housed adult Asiatic black bears rescued from bile farms for 103 observation hours. Amputees were less active than non-amputees, spent less time standing, travelled less between different areas of their outdoor enclosure, and showed less frequent stereotypic behaviour. Blind bears also showed low levels of activity and stereotypic behaviour. Blind bears and male amputees spent less time than non-disabled bears eating food dispersed throughout the enclosure as a foraging enrichment. It is unclear whether their infrequent eating is due to impaired foraging, or to lower energy demands arising from lower activity levels. Blind bears tended to manipulate feeders and other enrichment objects less than sighted bears. Disabled bears did not show any signs of impaired social interactions, and were not competitively displaced from resources by other bears more often than non-disabled bears. Thus, disabled bears rescued from bile farms show deficits in overall activity, with amputees also travelling less around their enclosures and blind bears potentially compromised in some forms of enrichment use. However, it is apparent that they adapt well to the presence of social companions. Several disabled bears also showed a degree of novel behaviour, compensating seemingly for disabilities, suggesting possible avenues for enrichments targeted specifically at these bears. The data also suggest specific hypotheses to test in longitudinal studies of rehabilitation.

Date 2012
Publication Title Animal Welfare
Volume 21
Issue 2
Pages 167-176
ISBN/ISSN 0962-7286
DOI 10.7120/09627286.21.2.167
Language English
Author Address Department of Animal and Poultry Science, University of Guelph, 50 Stone Road East, Building #70, Guelph, Ontario, N1G 2W1,
Additional Language English
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Agriculture
  2. Amputation
  3. Animal behavior
  4. Animal diseases
  5. Animal nutrition
  6. Animal rights
  7. Animals
  8. Animal welfare
  9. Bears
  10. Bile
  11. Blindness
  12. Carnivores
  13. Disabilities
  14. Enrichment
  15. Environment
  16. Feeders
  17. Foraging
  18. Gall
  19. Interactions
  20. Longitudinal studies
  21. Mammals
  22. open access
  23. peer-reviewed
  24. Research
  25. Studies
  1. open access
  2. peer-reviewed