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.


32nd Annual Convention; Atlanta, GA; 2006

Event Details

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Symposium #351
From Gorillas to Killer Whales: Behavioral Research and Welfare Advancements in Zoos and Aquarium
Monday, May 29, 2006
1:30 PM–2:50 PM
Area: EAB; Domain: Basic Research
Chair: Otto C. Fad (Busch Gardens)
Discussant: C. Thad Lacinak (Busch Entertainment Corporation)
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.
The Effects of Foraging Devices as Enrichment in Captive Walruses (Odobenus Rosmarus).
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.
Enhancing the Psychological Well-Being of Captive Primates using Behavioral Tasks.
SUZANNE MACDONALD (York University and The Toronto Zoo), 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 a variety of primate species, including prosimians, monkeys, and Great Apes, to provide behavioral enrichment as well as to understand and explore their highly developed cognitive abilities. Our methods range from employing naturalistic foraging environments to training the animals to use 'virtual' environments displayed on touch-screen computers. Results from studies of primate spatial memory and foraging strategies, as well as abstract concept discrimination and 'reasoning', will be discussed.
Life History Information Obtained from Captive Killer Whales (Orcinus Orca).
STEVEN CLARK (SeaWorld, Inc.)
Abstract: SeaWorld has had the opportunity to collect data on various aspects of killer whale (Orcinus orca) life histories. Analysis of these datasets has then allowed comparison to data from wild animal studies. Various aspects of nursing behaviors in calves, morphometric and growth data, and killer whale cow/calf relationships have been examined. Two aspects that allowed for the collection of such data include the use of operant conditioning to train milk collections, growth measurements, and similar husbandry behaviors, as well as the use of “whale watch” internships with local college students. Data collected from two other species maintained at SeaWorld, false killer whales (Pseudorca crassidens), and beluga (Delphinapterus leucas) will also be discussed. The effects of captivity notwithstanding, data from these studies provided valuable baseline information, adding to our overall knowledge of killer whale and other cetacean life histories. Indeed, captive situations provide unique opportunities to examine certain aspects of cetacean behavior and life history data relatively difficult, perhaps impossible, to obtain from their wild counterparts



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