Feeding enrichment methods for Pacific walrus calves

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Abstract

In the wild, walrus calves are occupied with many behaviors necessary for survival. In captivity there is usually less to occupy them. Therefore it is necessary to develop other ways to occupy the animals to prevent negative behavior. In the present study, food in four different types of dispensers were tested on two walrus calves: fish in ice, fish in a nine-hole container, fish in a two-hole container, and fish in ice in a one-hole container. All four methods of offering fish had an effect on the animals' behavior. There were differences in the way the two animals responded to each of the four dispensers. The dispensers occupied one animal on average between 32–95% of the 90-min test periods, and the other animal for between 14–57% of the test periods. Due to the effect of learning and rapid development of the calves, which were shifting from a 100% formula diet to a 100% fish diet during the study period, the four methods cannot be compared. Besides the time feeding methods occupy animals, the practicality of a dispenser determines how often it will be used by the keepers. Of the four dispenser types tested in the present study, the nine-hole container was the most practical and was still used frequently by the keepers years after the study. Zoo Biol 0:1–12, 2007. © 2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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