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All creatures great and small

With zoo enrichment efforts focusing too heavily on large popular animals, it’s time our approach was widened to benefit all species, says Dr Paul Rose


Zoos have made great advances in ‘environmental enrichment’ – making changes to encourage natural behaviour and improve animal wellbeing.

But researchers from the University of Exeter and the University of Winchester in the UK say efforts disproportionally focus on large, ‘popular’ animals – with less focus on creatures such as invertebrates, fish and reptiles.

The study, based on interviews with zoo professionals, revealed support for enrichment, but a lack of evaluation and evidence to measure the effectiveness of changes.

Here the University of Exeter’s Dr Paul Rose explains why it’s important that zoo improvements benefit all creatures.

There are many different types of enrichment, and it seems that only certain types are used for certain species in zoos.

For example, enrichment for large predators will often focus on the way they’re fed. But nutrition is only one of the five categories of enrichment – along with the physical environment, sensory stimulation, occupation (activities) and social structure.

It’s common to see a lot of effort devoted to enriching the environment for lions or tigers, but who considers giving enrichment to invertebrates?

About the research

We wanted to investigate what enrichment exists out there in the market for the ‘less exciting’ species that are housed in zoos.

As there is little published information on how well enrichment works, we need to keep researching what animals ‘get’ out of the enrichment they are provided with.

Zoos work hard to enrich environments, but they need to further evaluate their effectiveness.

The research we carried out argues that environmental enrichment must be underpinned by an evidence-based approach.

Invertebrates, birds, reptiles and fish are all complex beings and each species has evolved for a particular niche, so it’s possible to enrich their environments to reflect their natural habitats and social structures, however, this does not always happen.

Different planting and features can make enclosures rich and varied, and not just to human eyes. By considering natural history and a species’ social structure we can increase the appeal of this enriched environment to the animals themselves and also to the zoo’s visitors.

What’s great to see is that zoo professionals appreciate that a species’ natural behaviour and its ecology are the driving force behind the design of enrichment, so we’re giving enrichment to zoo animals that enables them to behave in a natural way. We just need to measure the effect of this.

The more we can encourage people to do science at the zoo, the more information we will have on how zoo animals like or enjoy the enrichment they are provided with.

Source: Concepts, Applications, Uses and Evaluation of Environmental Enrichment: Perceptions of Zoo Professionals

More: www.attractionsmanagement.com/zooenrichment

A lot of effort is devoted to enriching the environment of lions and tigers, but who considers giving enrichment to invertebrates?
Dr Paul Rose is a zoologist and a lecturer at the University of Exeter in the UK / Dr Paul Rose
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Jobs    News   Products   Magazine
Research
All creatures great and small

With zoo enrichment efforts focusing too heavily on large popular animals, it’s time our approach was widened to benefit all species, says Dr Paul Rose


Zoos have made great advances in ‘environmental enrichment’ – making changes to encourage natural behaviour and improve animal wellbeing.

But researchers from the University of Exeter and the University of Winchester in the UK say efforts disproportionally focus on large, ‘popular’ animals – with less focus on creatures such as invertebrates, fish and reptiles.

The study, based on interviews with zoo professionals, revealed support for enrichment, but a lack of evaluation and evidence to measure the effectiveness of changes.

Here the University of Exeter’s Dr Paul Rose explains why it’s important that zoo improvements benefit all creatures.

There are many different types of enrichment, and it seems that only certain types are used for certain species in zoos.

For example, enrichment for large predators will often focus on the way they’re fed. But nutrition is only one of the five categories of enrichment – along with the physical environment, sensory stimulation, occupation (activities) and social structure.

It’s common to see a lot of effort devoted to enriching the environment for lions or tigers, but who considers giving enrichment to invertebrates?

About the research

We wanted to investigate what enrichment exists out there in the market for the ‘less exciting’ species that are housed in zoos.

As there is little published information on how well enrichment works, we need to keep researching what animals ‘get’ out of the enrichment they are provided with.

Zoos work hard to enrich environments, but they need to further evaluate their effectiveness.

The research we carried out argues that environmental enrichment must be underpinned by an evidence-based approach.

Invertebrates, birds, reptiles and fish are all complex beings and each species has evolved for a particular niche, so it’s possible to enrich their environments to reflect their natural habitats and social structures, however, this does not always happen.

Different planting and features can make enclosures rich and varied, and not just to human eyes. By considering natural history and a species’ social structure we can increase the appeal of this enriched environment to the animals themselves and also to the zoo’s visitors.

What’s great to see is that zoo professionals appreciate that a species’ natural behaviour and its ecology are the driving force behind the design of enrichment, so we’re giving enrichment to zoo animals that enables them to behave in a natural way. We just need to measure the effect of this.

The more we can encourage people to do science at the zoo, the more information we will have on how zoo animals like or enjoy the enrichment they are provided with.

Source: Concepts, Applications, Uses and Evaluation of Environmental Enrichment: Perceptions of Zoo Professionals

More: www.attractionsmanagement.com/zooenrichment

A lot of effort is devoted to enriching the environment of lions and tigers, but who considers giving enrichment to invertebrates?
Dr Paul Rose is a zoologist and a lecturer at the University of Exeter in the UK / Dr Paul Rose
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