Environmental enrichment to address behavioral differences between wild and captive black-and-white ruffed lemurs (Varecia variegata)


  • Frances J. Kerridge

    Corresponding author
    1. Primate Research Team, Psychology and Life Sciences, University of Bolton, Bolton, United Kingdom
    • Bolton Primate Research Team, Psychology and Life Sciences, Bolton Institute, Deane Road, Bolton BL3 5AB, United Kingdom
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I compared the behaviors of wild Varecia variegata living in a Malagasy rain forest with those of caged groups living in zoos in the United Kingdom in order to design environmental enrichment to encourage more natural behaviors. Comparisons were made between wild and captive animals in terms of activity budgets (instantaneously sampled at 1-min intervals) and social and solitary behaviors, which were continuously recorded for focal individuals. I followed the same sampling protocol during behavioral enrichment experiments, with additional monitoring of the amount and type of food consumed, and with more detailed observations of feeding behavior. No significant differences were found in resting or moving between wild and captive V. variegata. However, captive V. variegata spent more time on self-grooming and social behaviors, and less time feeding than wild V. variegata. There was also a lack of manual manipulation of food items. Behavioral enrichment experiments were carried out in which whole rather than chopped fruit was provided and presented in a more naturalistic manner. With this method of dietary presentation, manual manipulation of dietary items increased. Time spent feeding also increased significantly. Captive conservation breeding programs should not be wholly concerned with maintaining a diverse gene pool–they should also be concerned with conserving species-typical behaviors, especially if they are to produce behaviorally intact captive animals that can be reintroduced to the wild with minimal training, financial resources, and loss of individuals. Am. J. Primatol. 66:71–84, 2005. © 2005 Wiley-Liss, Inc.