Association for Behavior Analysis International

The Association for Behavior Analysis International® (ABAI) is a nonprofit membership organization with the mission to contribute to the well-being of society by developing, enhancing, and supporting the growth and vitality of the science of behavior analysis through research, education, and practice.


34th Annual Convention; Chicago, IL; 2008

Event Details

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Symposium #361
Understanding Well-Being in Zoos and Aquariums: Applied Research in Action
Monday, May 26, 2008
10:00 AM–10:50 AM
Area: EAB; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Otto C. Fad (Busch Gardens)
Discussant: Otto C. Fad (Busch Gardens)
Abstract: Over the past several decades, zoos and aquariums have become increasingly concerned with the welfare of their captive species. This has been especially true for various primate and marine mammals in captivity, and great lengths have been taken through numerous environmental and behavioral strategies to increase their well-being. The use of “naturalistic” enclosures, introduction of objects that can be consumed and/or manipulated, changes in the type and ways food is presented, and the use of operant conditioning and other training procedures are just a few examples of the attempts aimed at increasing the well-being of captive animals. This focus on using environmental and behavioral procedures to increase welfare has also produced a need to quantify their effects. Through research, zoos and aquariums have found concrete ways of measuring changes in the welfare of their captive animals. The following three talks will examine several research projects aimed at documenting the welfare improvements of primates and marine mammals in zoos and aquariums.
Life History Insights Obtained from Captive Cateceans.
Abstract: SeaWorld has had the opportunity to collect data on various aspects of killer whale (Orcinus orca), false killer whale (Pseudorca Crassidens), and beluga (Delphinapterus leucas) life histories. Nursing behavior studies on killer whale and false killer whale calves has revealed a number of patterns. Nursing amounts dramatically drop soon after birth and nursing patterns are not gender specific. Other studies have used “Whale watch” internships from local college students to provide invaluable data on the ontogenetic shifts in killer whale cow/calf spatial relationships. Preliminary results suggested calves shift their body position preference in relation to the cow as they aged and began to engage in behaviors suggestive of growing independence. Animals were also trained to allow milk collection for subsequent analyses in attempt to elucidate how milk quality shifts may influence calf nursing. Trained adult and calf cetaceans also provided morphometric and growth data, the benefits obvious not only from scientific, but husbandry aspects as well. Newer studies have begun investigating rotational preferences or tendencies and general activity budgets in these animals. While the artifacts of captivity cannot be completely discounted, the benefit of captive studies lies in the relative ease, when compared to the wild, of behavioral observations and can contribute a conceptual baseline for wild studies to construct and test assumptions.
Enhancing the Psychological Well-Being of Captive Orangutans using Computer-Based Cognitive Tasks.
SUZANNE MACDONALD (York University), Heidi Marsh (York University and The Toronto Zoo)
Abstract: The primate order contains over 180 species, each with unique physical, social and behavioral characteristics. Ensuring the psychological well-being of nonhuman primates in zoo environments is thus a particularly interesting challenge. In this talk, I will describe work we have done with orangutans, a semi-solitary Great Ape, to provide behavioral enrichment as well as to understand and explore their highly complex cognitive abilities. For the past several years, we have been training the animals on a variety of cognitive tasks displayed on touch-screen computers. Results from studies of abstract concept discrimination, as well as spatial cognition, will be discussed, and will include comparative data from human participants.
Foraging and Walruses: An Examination of Functional Enrichment at the Indianapolis Zoo.
EDUARDO J. FERNANDEZ (Indiana University ), William D. Timberlake (Indiana University)
Abstract: Walruses display a number of stereotypic and destructive activities in captivity. Many of these behaviors appear directly related to foraging activities, and can include flipper sucking, vibrissae/tusk contact against various parts of the enclosure, suction/ingestion of various non-edible objects, and repetitive swimming circles. In the wild, walruses spend a considerable amount of their time foraging across the ocean floor for mollusks and other food items, so their attempts to engage in these repetitive and abnormal behaviors appears to adhere to their typical foraging requirements. Two experiments examined feeding devices that allowed three captive walruses to forage within their enclosure. In Experiment 1, two 3.5’ x 5’ mats with inserted fish and clams were examined. In Experiment 2, two 20” plastic balls with several 1 3/8” holes were tested with food as well. In both experiments, decreases in stereotypic activity and increases in foraging device contact and non-patterned swimming were observed. Implications for the future of captive walruses, as well as the use of foraging devices with captive animals in general, will be discussed.



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