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Keywords:

  • maned wolf;
  • enrichment;
  • behavior response;
  • corticoids

Abstract

The ex situ population of maned wolves is not self-sustaining due to poor reproduction, caused primarily by parental incompetence. Studies have shown that environmental enrichment can promote natural parental behaviors in zoo animals. The objective of this study was to determine the effects of environmental enrichment on behavioral and physiological responses of maned wolves. During an 8-week experimental period, daily behavior observations and fecal sample collection were conducted on four adult wolves (2.2) individually housed in environments without enrichment. After 2 weeks, the wolves were chronologically provided with 2-week intervals of hiding dead mice around the exhibit, no enrichment, and introduction of boomer balls. Responses of the wolves to enrichment were assessed based on activity levels and exploratory rates, as well as the level of corticoid metabolites in fecal samples collected daily throughout the study period. Providing wolves with environmental enrichment significantly increased exploratory behaviors (P<0.05), especially when mice were hidden in the enclosure. Fecal corticoid concentrations were increased during periods of enrichment in males (P<0.05), but not in females. Overall, there were no correlations between behavioral responses to enrichment and fecal corticoid levels. Behavioral results suggest that environmental enrichment elicits positive effects on the behavior of captive maned wolves. There is evidence suggesting that providing animals with ability to forage for food is a more effective enrichment strategy than introducing objects. There is need for a longer term study to determine the impact of environmental enrichment in this species. Zoo Biol 26:331–343, 2007. © 2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.