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Managing Animal Behaviour through Environmental Enrichment Iván Lozano-Ortega
Title - Summary - Content - Introduction - Chapter 1 - Chapter 2 - Chapter 3 - Chapter 4 - Chapter 5 - Chapter 6 - References

Introduction

The habitat where an animal lives, is made up of a rich mix of diverse stimuli. The organism must respond appropriately in order to survive and reproduce. The assertion that an organism maintains relations with the living and non-living components of its environment, implies that it must change in response to environmental changes (Dethier and Stellar, 1970)

Captivity can affect drastically animal behaviour, (Morris, 1964). Confining an animal to a cage or enclosure reduces the complexity, and increases the predictability (DWCT Training Manual 1999). It can induce different behavioural responses on the animal such as boredom or stereotypies.

The notion of animal boredom suggests that successful enrichment should enhance the active character of behaviour, resulting in an increasingly frequency of interactive behaviours such as exploration, manipulation, play, and social interaction. At the same time, abnormal patterns of behaviour should largely disappear.(Wemelsfelder, 1999)

Captive animals of different species may show abnormal behaviours, which are uncommon or even absent in natural populations. Some reactions may be unadaptive, others partly or even wholly adaptive to the unbiological situations in captivity (Meyer-Holzapfel, 1968). In most cases, enclosures do not offer to animals sufficient stimuli to occupy most of their activity time.

Therefore, captive conditions must approximate the natural state to achieve the species natural level of fitness. In order to do this, a good general understanding of the animal's biology and natural history is vital. (DWCT Training Manual 1999).For example, a variety of enrichment devices have been developed for captive capuchin monkeys (Cebus spp.), based on the information about foraging strategies and object manipulation in the wild (Fragaszy and Adams Curtis 1991).

Abnormal behaviours can be a consequence of stressful situations. Stress is a condition involving physiological and psychological mechanisms and responses. (DWCT Training Manual 1999). Some degree of stress is experienced in nature as a result of natural environmental stimuli and regarded as being beneficial, this has been termed Eustress as opposed to Distress which is trust perceived to have a negative effect (Selye, 1974). A distressed animal is one that is unable to adaptively cope with external stressors. Isolation in social species and boredom resulted from certain husbandry practices are considered by some to be more distressful than pain (Wolfle, 1987). When discussing animal wellbeing it is very difficult to separate the physical from the psychological aspects. Mind-body dualism (Thomas and Lorden, 1989) is a term coined to express the reciprocal relationship between the two. If an animal's physiological needs are unsatisfied it is extremely unlikely that the psychological ones can be and viceversa. (DWCT,1999)

Environmental enrichment describes the efforts made to alleviate the incidence of boredom in captive animals and reduce undesirable behaviours. (DWCT Training Manual 1999).

A well designed environmental enrichment program provides further health benefits by creating an opportunity for an animal to exhibit species-typical behaviours and encouraging an increase in physical activity (Baer, 1998)

Managing the environment of the animals can increase their activity time, and also the amount of time the animals spend performing behaviours that they usually display in the wild, which is very important in rehabilitation or education programs.

Some environmental enrichment techniques are specific for particular Families of animals, but there are others that can be used for several ones.

A classification of environmental enrichment techniques is made according with the species in which they can be used and behaviours that they should modify. Also enrichment techniques that are potentially useful for rescue and rehabilitation centres are reviewed. Their value to encourage natural behaviours during rehabilitation to facilitate training processes is discussed.

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Revised 2011-10-30
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