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Preliminary investigation of social interactions and feeding behavior in captive group-housed Tasmanian devils (Sarcophilus Harrisii)

By Candice J. A. Skelton, Hayley J. Stannard

Category Journal Articles
Abstract

As the number of Tasmanian devils (Sarcophilus harrisii) in captivity increases, an understanding of captive social dynamics and behavior is becoming increasingly important. In the wild, devils are solitary, although sometimes, they congregate to feed on a large carcass. However, it is common to house devils in groups as a form of social enrichment. This study investigated how behavior at feeding time of captive Tasmanian devils varied in groups of different sizes. Observations were made of individually housed devils and devils in groups of two, three, five, and six, when presented with a carcass on which to feed. Total feeding duration ranged from 6.5 to 47.4 minutes per observation period (70 minutes). There was no significant interaction between feeding duration and group size during the experiment. Feeding duration varied daily and depended on carcass size. Social housing of Tasmanian devils enabled them to display dyadic and agonistic behaviors during feeding. Observing behaviors and learning from the outcomes of these interactions can improve husbandry techniques. Creating a captive environment that encourages natural behaviors may enhance survival in the wild following translocation.

Publication Title Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science
Volume 21
Issue 3
Pages 295-303
ISBN/ISSN 1088-8705
DOI 10.1080/10888705.2017.1418667
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Tags
  1. Captivity
  2. Carnivores
  3. Feeding
  4. Group housing