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Feeding Enrichment in a Captive Pack of European Wolves (Canis Lupus Lupus): Assessing the Effects on Welfare and on a Zoo’s Recreational, Educational and Conservational Role

1
Vethos, Via E. Besta 46, 00167 Rome, Italy
2
Department of Veterinary Sciences, University of Pisa, Viale delle Piagge 2, 56124 Pisa, Italy
3
Research Department, Fondazione Bioparco di Roma, Viale del Giardino Zoologico 20, 00197 Rome, Italy
4
Deanery of Biomedical Sciences, University of Edinburgh, Teviot Place, Edinburgh EH8 9AG, UK
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Animals 2019, 9(6), 331; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9060331
Received: 11 April 2019 / Revised: 28 May 2019 / Accepted: 4 June 2019 / Published: 8 June 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Dog Behaviour, Physiology and Welfare)
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Simple Summary

Feeding enrichment is widely used to improve the welfare of zoo animals, but it may also affect zoo visitors’ experience and perception of the animals. The objective of this study was to assess the effects of a naturalistic and a non-naturalistic feeding enrichment program, on both wolf behaviour and visitors’ interest in the exhibit. A questionnaire was administered to visitors with the aim of assessing whether our feeding enrichment programs might affect their perception of captive wolf welfare as well as their attitude towards wolf conservation issues. Our findings suggest that, although wolves seemed to benefit from enrichment, their behavioural responses were highly variable among individuals. Visitors’ interest in the exhibit and perception of captive wolf welfare improved by observing the wolves interacting with food, especially when novel feeding objects were provided. Finally, their attitude towards wolf conservation issues did not change in relation to enrichment, but improved when they observed the wolves performing feeding-related behaviours. These findings may help zoos implement enrichment programs that are effective for enhancing their wolves’ welfare as well as their recreational and educational role.

Abstract

This study investigated the effects of two feeding enrichment programs on the behaviour of a captive pack of European wolves (Canis lupus lupus) and their correlation with both zoo visitors’ interest towards the exhibit and their overall perception of the species. Behavioural data (exploration, stereotypies, social interactions, activity/inactivity rates) were collected on four male wolves during four two-week long phases: initial control, hidden food, novel object, final control. Three observation sessions were performed daily: before, during and after feeding. Number of visitors and their permanence in front of the exhibit were recorded. After watching the wolves, visitors were asked to fill out a brief questionnaire in order to investigate their perception of captive wolf welfare, as well as their attitude towards wolf conservation issues. Despite the high inter-individual variability in their behavioural response, all wolves seemed to benefit from feeding enrichment. With regard to visitors, interest in the exhibit increased when enrichment was provided. Visitors’ perception of the level of welfare of wolves improved if they attended a feeding session, especially during the novel object phase. Visitors’ attitude towards wolf conservation issues also improved during feeding sessions, regardless of enrichment provision. View Full-Text
Keywords: zoo; wolf behaviour; animal welfare; visitor; conservation; education zoo; wolf behaviour; animal welfare; visitor; conservation; education
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Riggio, G.; Mariti, C.; Boncompagni, C.; Corosaniti, S.; Di Giovanni, M.; Ogi, A.; Gazzano, A.; Thomas, R. Feeding Enrichment in a Captive Pack of European Wolves (Canis Lupus Lupus): Assessing the Effects on Welfare and on a Zoo’s Recreational, Educational and Conservational Role. Animals 2019, 9, 331.

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