Environmental enrichment has been used to identify and change a stimulus in a captive environment to increase the animal's welfare by bring out species-appropriate behaviors and combating stereotypic behaviors. One captive North American river otter (Lontra canadensis) was presented four enrichment initiatives (live fish, frozen fish, swim tube, PVC scent tubes) in a random order and placement throughout the exhibit. Baseline data showed that the otter preferred to spend mornings in the lower level of the exhibit and the afternoons in the upper level. Food initiatives (i.e. live fish, and a lesser degree frozen fish) were most effective in deterring a stereotyped swimming pattern, but effects were confined to the times in which the initiatives were present, and more effective when applied in the afternoon than the morning. This suggested that the stereotyped behavior was functional, occurring out of a lack of ability to forage. Variability existed in behavioral diversity between initiatives, and all initiatives increase exhibit utilization through exploratory behaviors and the expression of more naturalist behaviors. Results should be used by animal care staff to make corresponding changes to husbandry practices to improve the otter's welfare.
Library of Congress Subject Headings
North American river otter--Environmental enrichment; North American river otter--Behavior; Captive wild animals--Behavior
Environmental Science (MS)
Department, Program, or Center
Thomas H. Gosnell School of Life Sciences (COS)
Nelson, Kenneth O., "Environmental enrichment effects on the activity of a nearctic river otter" (2009). Thesis. Rochester Institute of Technology. Accessed from
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