Interest in coloured objects and behavioural budgets of individual captive freshwater turtles
Keywords:enrichment, escape behaviour, novelty stress
Recent studies showed that freshwater turtles display inter-individual differences in various behavioural traits, which may influence their health and welfare in captivity due to differences in response to husbandry and enrichment strategies and in ability to cope with the limitations of the captive environment. This study investigated a possible correlation between individual level of escape behaviour under standard enrichment conditions and level of interest in coloured objects in a group of cooters Pseudemys sp. and sliders Trachemys scripta ssp. on display at a public aquarium. Interest in different colours, colour preference and individual differences in behavioural changes in the presence of the new enrichment were also studied. Turtles categorised as ‘high’ and ‘moderate escape behaviour’ (17–34% of behavioural budget) showed more interest in coloured objects and tended to display less escape behaviour in their presence, while turtles categorised as ‘low escape behaviour’ (<10% of behavioural budget) were less interested in coloured objects and tended to display more escape behaviour in their presence. Overall, there was more interest in yellow than in red, white or green objects, with more contacts with coloured objects before feeding and at the start of each observation period and a preference for yellow against red objects. The individual differences in behavioural changes in the presence of the new enrichment suggested that more studies into colour preference and response to novelty in turtles would be beneficial to ensure that no individuals are unduly stressed by new enrichments.