Environmental and Food-based Enrichment Effects on the Stereotypic Pacing Behaviors of Black Bears in Captivity
Chilcote, Madeleine M.
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Animal welfare is a concern across zoos worldwide. Animal care staff must consider the best diet, exhibit design, neighbors, exhibit mates, and health care for each animal in the zoo’s collection. However not every animal adapts well to life in captivity. Especially for animals that need vast home ranges to thrive, captivity can lead to stress, anxiety, and boredom. The bear family Ursidae struggles with this limitation. Black bears in particular are curious, opportunistic foragers that will travel far distances scavenging for food. Because the zoo life does not provide the bears with their normal mate and food seeking opportunities, the bears can begin to exhibit stereotypy – an aimless, timepassing behavior. A common stereotypy of black bears is pacing. At the Binder Park Zoo, the three black bear siblings, Taima, Achak and Koko, displayed anticipatory pacing behaviors near feeding times. To address this stereotypy, I designed an enrichment program for the bears that included environmental and food-based enrichment that targeted pre lunch and pre dinner periods. The environmental enrichment included leaf litter and logs placed strategically along the bears’ pacing path. For the food-based enrichment, an automatic feeder was installed along the outside of the bears’ exhibit that dispensed food near the times the bears began to pace. I recorded the bears’ behaviors at the beginning of each minute. A qualitative analysis was performed on the frequency of behaviors the bears exhibited over the summer. Although marginal, the enrichment treatments did tend to decrease pacing behaviors in all three bears. Further research could be done with the intent of fostering the development of the feeder design and placement. This enrichment type will hopefully make its way into the animal welfare libraries of zoos so that zookeepers can try different enrichment types to target stereotypic behaviors.