Goal-oriented behavioural and environmental enrichment in aquarium species
Keywords:animal welfare, aquatic species, behavioural diversity, behavioural needs, environmental enrichment, species-specific behaviours
Environmental enrichment is a common tool used in zoo and aquarium settings to provide mental and physical stimulation to animals under human care. This paper aims to present a primary approach to goal-oriented environmental and behavioural enrichment following a simplified version of the SPIDER method for a diverse range of aquarium-housed species. The aim of the proposed goal-oriented environmental-enrichment programme is to stimulate behavioural diversity by providing controlled stimuli. This programme is easy to implement and can be used by animal care staff; it encompasses an easy evaluation form for daily monitoring and seeks to increase species-specific behavioural diversity. It is suggested that environmental enrichment programmes should be designed for the benefit of animal welfare; understanding how they affect animals under human care is essential to take informed decisions about which behaviours or situations to stimulate. An environmental enrichment protocol was developed which considers the ethology and biology of the species under consideration prior to implementation. Specific goals (i.e., behaviours and/or actions) were assigned to particular stimuli (enrichment devices) and the efficacy of the enrichment devices were assessed by reporting on the reactions of the animals. Over time, this protocol has made it possible to define a validated catalogue of enrichment devices for which specific goals and expected reactions are consistent. The increased behavioural diversity achieved with this programme is providing aquatic species with the choice to display species-specific behaviours.