Introducing a Semi-Naturalistic Exhibit As Structural Enrichment for Two Brown Bears

Ana I. Soriano , Conrad Ensenyat , Susana Serrat & Carme Maté (2006) Introducing a Semi-Naturalistic Exhibit As Structural Enrichment for Two Brown bears (Ursos arctos). Does This Ensure Their Captive Well-Being?, Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science, 9:4, 299-314, DOI: 10.1207/s15327604jaws0904_5

Structural enrichment is one of the five types of environmental enrichment, which has led to an increased collaboration with architects and engineers in hopes of enhancing the well-being and lifestyle of animals in captivity, from changing the size of enclosures to introducing objects into the exhibits for the animals to manipulate. While studies have been conducted on the response of members of the primate order to increasing the size of the enclosures, this is the first to research the effect on the behavior and use of space of members of the Ursidae family. The subjects of the study were located at the Barcelona Zoo. Bubu, was a 10 year-year old captive born female, and Keiko, who was a 1.5-year –od male who was wild born and hand reared. Baseline observations were conducted by César Gonàlez and collaborators from the Veterinarian Association for the Attention of Exotic and Wild Animals of the Autonomous University of Barcelona. During the procedure stage, Ana I. Soriano conducted the behavioral observation that lasted from 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m by several researchers who each had to pass a reliability test for their data collecting. They first observed the bears in their old enclosures, which consisted of small, concrete pits with water areas for drinking and bathing. Furnishings consisted of several large stones, trees, and a felled log.  The enclosures were updated in 2000 to increase Keiko’s enclosure by 150m squared and Bubu’s enclosure was increased by 230m squared. The cement floors were replaced by beach sand, gravel, and pine bark. New stones, logs, and permanent honey dispensers were added. The authors then compared the coded behavior that they recorded in both types of enclosures for statistical significance. They found that Bubo spent more time moving around, acting vigilant, showing self-maintenance behaviors, and retreating from visitor’s views. Keiko was also less active and engaged in more self- maintenance behaviors. The authors, however, concluded that the semi-naturalization of the exhibit did not do enough to increase the bears’ well-being ,although it did more for Keiko, the male, than it did for Bubu. They proposed that animal well-being is caused by factors that include well designed homes, but also stress enrichment, daily routines that mimic those in the wild, and good nutrition.

Main points and Potential Applications

  • The increased semi-naturalization of the bear exhibits did not do enough to enhance the well-being of the bears in captivity
  • The differing responses between Bubu and Keiko suggest there animals may respond differently man made environments based upon age, sex or rearing conditions.
  • Future research should involve studies in which the animals are not placed in off exhibit enclosures to such a great extent during the week.

Summary by Kayla Langmaid


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