Turn On The Environment - Technology Driven (Digital) Enrichment

Technology is utilized in daily life more and more. Technology is almost everywhere. Similarly, zoos are using technology progressively in their institutions as well. You can see it in educational efforts, using auditory and visual signs to educate the visitors. Your tickets for the zoo are now bought online. Zoos often have a mobile app with an interactive map when you walk around the animals. Nowadays, you can more frequently follow your favourite animals online and see an animal birth live beyond your computer screen. But within the animals' environment are also many possibilities to use technology to improve the overall welfare. Let's dive in the use of technology for environmental enrichment. 


Determine The Need Of Environmental Enrichment - A Conceptual Framework

Environmental enrichment can be defined as "The provision of stimuli which promote the expression of species-appropriate behavioural and mental activities in an understimulating environment". In an ideal world, all animals in captivity would be provided with environments that were maximally favourable to their (behavioural) welfare. Designs for truly naturalistic-appearing environments combined with responsive environmental designs should ultimately gain more respect and support for animals in captivity. Considering that the captive environment in zoos and aquariums will always have limitations, environmental enrichment is a necessity to accomplish its species welfare. Institutions that keep captive animals do not have unlimited resources, therefore prioritizing is often needed and decisions must be made concerning which species or individuals should be the initial or primary focus of more extensive enrichment effort. For enrichment efforts to be useful, effective and efficient, we need to have a theoretical framework based on our understanding of each species natural history and current husbandry to improve animals' well-being and stimulate their natural behaviours. 


The Contrafreeloading Concept - What Does It Mean

In most animals, food is a powerful motivator of behaviour, so it will be no surprise that the manner and timing of feeding affect behaviour in captive animals. Appetitive behaviours are also strongly influenced by how food is presented. Food timing and presentation influence appetitive and consummatory behaviours, but also (food) aggression, abnormal behaviours and stereotypic behaviours. When thinking about food presentation and food enrichment, there is another interesting concept to take into account how to present food to animals in captivity: The contrafreeloading concept.  But what does contrafreeloading means? 


The Enrichment Compensation Tendency In Captivity

Environmental enrichment, also known as behavioural enrichment or behavioural husbandry, is provided for a different number of reasons in zoos and aquariums, mainly to support good animal welfare. Environmental enrichment is a qualified practice to enhance the physical and mental health of animals in captivity. Providing stimulating environments it has become a key component in zoo husbandry management. Proper enrichment can prevent boredom and frustration what eventually can result in negative behaviours, but mostly it is implemented to stimulate species-specific behaviourally biological needs. It is also used to improve the visitor experience. The public wants to see active, healthy animals. 

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