Thirty years later: enrichment practices for captive mammals



Environmental enrichment of captive mammals has been steadily evolving over the past thirty years. For this process to continue, it is first necessary to define current enrichment practices and then identify the factors that limit enhancing the quality and quantity of enrichment, as well as the evaluation of its effectiveness. With the objective of obtaining this information, an international multi-institutional questionnaire survey was conducted with individuals working with zoo-housed mammals. Results of the survey showed that regardless of how important different types of enrichment were perceived to be, if providing them was particularly time-consuming, they were not made available to captive mammals as frequently as those requiring less staff time and effort. The groups of mammals provided with enrichment most frequently received it on average fewer than four times per day, resulting in less than two hours per day spent by each animal care staff member on tasks related to enrichment. The time required for staff to complete other husbandry tasks was the factor most limiting the implementation and evaluation of enrichment. The majority of survey respondents agreed that they would provide more enrichment and carry out more evaluation of enrichment if it was manageable to do so. The results of this study support the need for greater quantity, variety, frequency, and evaluation of enrichment provided to captive mammals housed in zoos without impinging on available staff time. Zoo Biol 29:303–316, 2010. © 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.