Activity-based management of captive animals involves the training and movement of animals among several exhibits and holding areas. We studied the effectiveness of this system in producing variation in behavior, controlling stereotypies, and eliciting natural behaviors. Twelve animals representing five species of mammals (orangutans, siamangs, tapirs, babirusa, and Sumatran and Siberian tigers) were the subjects of focal observations measuring activity levels, stereotypies, natural behaviors, and space utilization. Statistical analysis was used to assess the association between variation in behavior and the movement among the four exhibits. For several animals, the persistence of behavioral changes was studied over a period of 3 years. We also examined the influence of the previous animal in the exhibit on the focal animal. Moving animals among the exhibits affected activity levels and/or space utilization in all animals in the activity-based management system. In cases for which 3-year data were available, there was evidence of habituation to the novelty of changing exhibits. Stereotypies, usually in the form of pacing, were affected by exhibits, providing the opportunity to manipulate these behavior patterns by exhibit placement. Natural behaviors in the form of urine-spraying by the female tapir and the Sumatran tiger were affected by which animal had previously been in the exhibit. The results support the conclusion that exposure to varying exhibits produces variation in the behavior of the animals and elicits natural behaviors that would be unlikely to occur in a traditional single-species exhibit. Activity-based management provides unique opportunities for the behavioral enrichment of captive animals. Zoo Biol 22:269–285, 2003. © 2003 Wiley-Liss, Inc.