Environmental enrichment for Killer whales Orcinus orca at zoological institutions: untried and untested



Despite a history in zoological institutions stretching back more than 50 years, with associated improvements in husbandry and breeding, the keeping of Killer whales Orcinus orca in zoos and aquariums has become highly controversial. The recent decision to stop the current breeding programme in the USA does not obviate the need to continue to improve husbandry as the whales in zoological institutions today will survive for decades to come. In this paper we outline several novel ideas for enriching the lives of Killer whales through provision of intergroup communication, and enhancement of feeding methods, health and fitness, and the ambient environment, all of which are aimed at eliciting natural behaviours seen in the wild. The enrichments proposed here may require adaptation for use with Killer whales and many could be modified for use with other cetacean species. We believe that by providing species-appropriate enrichment, both the welfare and educational value of Killer whales and other cetaceans can be greatly enhanced in the future.