Environmental enrichment programs are commonly implemented at aquariums, oceanariums, and zoological facilities to improve the physical and mental well-being of animals in managed care and increase display of species-specific behavior in some animals. The present study describes analyses of North American river otter (Lontra canadensis) interactions with foraging devices introduced to their habitat as part of an environmental enrichment program at Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium and the determination of preferential behavior towards these devices. For 21 days, 3 adult North American river otters were presented with 14 different foraging devices in variable pairs. Over a period of 420 minutes, the otters’ behavior toward the devices was recorded. Otter interactions with each foraging device was assessed and quantified; The frequency and duration of interaction between the otters and each device was analyzed, as was location of interaction within the exhibit. All three otters displayed a larger variety of interaction behaviors and exhibited a significantly longer duration and frequency of interaction with devices in aquatic portions of the exhibit. Chi-squared analysis determined that the relationship between each otter and the different devices had a significant impact on the duration of interaction, though not frequency of interaction. Observation and analysis of interactions with foraging devices produces the opportunity to cater to these preferences when introducing new foraging devices to environmental enrichment programs. Devices designed to meet the observed preferences of target animals have the potential to decrease the possibility of boredom or disinterest in enrichment devices, thus improving the likelihood of the device encouraging physical activity, stimulating cognition, and promoting natural behaviors.
Kimmel, Rachel, "Determining foraging device preferences in North American river otters (Lontra canadensis) at Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium" (2018). Internship Reports (Restricted). 337.
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