|Effects of increasingly complex enrichment on the behavior of captive Malayan sun bears at Oakland Zoo|
|Yasmeen Ghavamian1, Karin Jaffe1, Darren Minier2. 1Sonoma State University, Rohnert Park, CA, United States; 2Conservation Society of California and Oakland Zoo, Oakland, CA, United States
All zoos grapple with the challenges of keeping captive animals engaged in natural behaviors. This is especially true for bears who prove to be among the more challenging taxa to keep stimulated. In captivity, a common indicator of poor welfare is the presence of stereotypic behaviors. In this study, we test whether providing increasingly complex enrichment decreases the duration of stereotypic behavior for three adult female sun bears (Helarctos malayanus) at Oakland Zoo. We compared the effects of two different enrichment devices- presented at three complexity levels- on sun bear stereotypic behavior. After three weeks of baseline data collection when no complex enrichment was present, we introduced the complex enrichment three times a week per level over six weeks. Providing increasingly complex enrichment decreased the duration of stereotypic behavior when compared to baseline. Across the six weeks, the duration of stereotypic behavior was significantly less on the complex enrichment days compared to the days when complex enrichment was absent. These results suggest that providing increasingly complex enrichment may have a positive influence on the behavior of captive bears.