Research Article

A preliminary study of the effects of environmental enrichment on the behaviour of captive African wild dogs (Lycaon pictus)

Laura J. Price

University, College Road, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire ST4 2DE, UK

Received:

27 Sept 2009

Accepted:

30 Mar 2010

Published:

11 May 2010

Volume:

3

Issue:

2

Keywords:

African wild dog, Lycaon pictus, environmental enrichment, activity levels, abnormal behaviour

Abstract:

Environmental enrichment has been used in a number of studies of captive animals with goals of increasing activity, increasing behavioural diversity, increasing the utilization of the environment and reducing the abnormal behaviours of captive animals. This study investigated the effects of environmental enrichment on the behaviour of captive African wild dogs. Five enrichment treatments were presented to the dogs over a 5 week period. One enrichment treatment was placed into the dogs' enclosure once a week. The treatments were boomer balls, various scents, a sandpit with hidden food, a blood trail leading to rawhide items/pig's ears and all the foregoing enrichments simultaneously presented to the dogs. Behavioural responses of the dogs during pre-enrichment (baseline), enrichment treatments and post-enrichment were observed using instantaneous scan sampling, at 5 min intervals. Behaviours were subdivided into nine behavioural categories and allocated to ‘active’ and ‘inactive’ behaviours, which were used for analysis. Boomer balls had no effect on activity levels; however, the scent, blood trail and sandpit enrichment significantly increased the dogs' activity levels. A rise in behaviours such as 'locomotion' and 'scanning' were observed during the scent, blood trail and sandpit enrichment. 'Sniffing' escalated during the scent and blood trail enrichment. When all enrichments were presented simultaneously, activity levels were significantly decreased. Overall enrichment did not reduce abnormal/undesirable behaviours. The results indicate that some environmental enrichment can be used to increase active behaviours of African wild dogs in captivity and shows promise in eliciting positive effects on behaviour and welfare.

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