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Animal Enrichment Strategies for Promoting Natural Behaviors in Captive Populations of Tasmanian Devils (Sarcophilus harrisii)

By Tierney O'neal

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Abstract

The population of Tasmanian devils (Sarcophilus harrisii) is in rapid decline due to Devil Facial Tumour Disease, and insurance populations have been created in captivity for potential future introduction into the wild. Many problems can arise within captive animal populations including loss of natural behaviors, and development of negative stereotypical (i.e. pacing) behaviors. These issues can decrease ecological fitness, potentially jeopardizing success of introductions of animals into the wild. By providing captive animals with enrichment, natural behaviors can be increased, and stereotypical behaviors can be decreased. Enrichment is defined as an activity or item that promotes the mental and physical well-being of an animal. In this study, ten different enrichment items were given to a group of captive devils to assess their effects on activity levels and behaviors. Data regarding items was also analyzed to see how long the enrichment was useful for, and how often it could be given to the devils for it to seem be conceived as novel. Results suggested that most enrichment items decreased stereotypical behavior and promoted natural behaviors.

Submitter

Katie Carroll

Date 2011
Publisher School for International Training Study Abroad
URL http://digitalcollections.sit.edu/isp_collection/1129/
Language English
University School for International Training Study Abroad
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Tags
  1. Animal behavior
  2. Animal roles
  3. Animal welfare
  4. Captivity
  5. Enrichment
  6. Physical environment
  7. stimulation
  8. Tasmania
  9. Wild animals
  10. Zoo and captive wild animals