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Environmental Enrichments for a Group of Captive Macaws: Low Interaction Does Not Mean Low Behavioral Changes.

Macaws benefit from environmental enrichment, even if they spend little time with new toys

Source: Reimer J, Maia C.M., Santos E.F.
Journal Applied Animal Welfare Science. 2016 October-December;19(4):385-95. doi: 10.1080/10888705.2016.1175944. Epub 2016 May 2.

It is well-known that environmental enrichment can improve the lives of captive animals, though it is not always easy to assess what sort of enrichment (such as a toy or a food tree) works best. One way to measure the effect of an enrichment is how much time the captive animals spend using it, and another is to see whether there is any change in the animal’s behaviour after the enrichment was provided. The two can be linked to see if spending a lot of time on an enrichment brought a proportionate improvement in behaviour.

This study looked at 16 macaws which were given six environmental enrichments, one after the other. The way the group of macaws behaved was recorded both before they were given the enrichments, and during the time they had them. Every enrichment has an impact on how the macaws allocated their time to different activitities, such as foraging. The birds spent more time with some objects, like a food tree, and less time with others, like swings. However, the time spent on an object was not related to the effect on the macaws’ overall behavior. There were as many changes in behaviour from the swings, and other objects that the macaws didn’t use much as with objects they used a lot. This means that enrichments can affect behaviours in more complicated ways than was initially apparent.