Action: Carnivores: Scatter food around enclosure
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In the wild, many felids, canids and ursids have to forage for food over large areas whereas in captivity, food is often presented to animals directly without any need for active searching. Potentially, more natural foraging conditions can be simulated by scattering food throughout enclosures and hiding food in materials covering the floor (e.g. straw) for longer periods. Scatter feeds aim to increase foraging and exploratory behaviours potentially providing a more stimulating environment.
Supporting evidence from individual studies
A replicated, before-and-after study in 2003 of maned wolves Chrysocyon brachyurus in three zoos in Brazil found that scattering food throughout the enclosure increased locomotory behaviour in the observation period immediately following feeding compared to food provided on trays (mean values not reported). There were also significant individual differences between scattered food and food on trays in foraging, aggression, resting and ‘out of view’. However, these differences were not consistent for all wolves. There was no difference in faecal glucocorticoid metabolites or pacing between feeding conditions. Eleven maned wolves were housed in pairs except for one individual. The wolves were fed once daily with mixed fruit and mixed meat. In the baseline condition food was placed in trays whereas in the scattered food condition half the regular diet was provided on a tray and the rest hidden in 12 locations. Instantaneous focal sampling every 30 seconds was used for 20-minutes per individual for five periods per day.
A replicated study in 2012 of maned wolves Chrysocyon brachyurus in a zoo in Brazil found that when given a choice, the wolves spent more time in the section of their enclosure with scattered food compared to the section with food on a tray (mean values not reported). There was no difference between the number of times the wolves chose to enter the scattered or tray section at the start of each session. There were no differences in intake between scattered and tray sections between pairs or throughout the months. Prior to the study, eight maned wolves housed in mixed sex pairs were fed mixed fruit and mixed meats once a day. Sixteen 30-minute videotaped sessions were conducted over four months. The enclosures comprised of a starting compartment, a choice area and a scattered and tray section. Tray and scattered food conditions were alternated on each side of the enclosure. The section chosen at the beginning, the time spent in each area, the number of shifts between sections and the intake of both animals were all recorded.
- Vasconcellos A.S., Guimarães M., Oliveira C.A.d., Pizzutto C.S. & Ades C. (2009) Environmental enrichment for maned wolves (Chrysocyon brachyurus): group and individual effects. Animal Welfare, 18, 289-300
- Vasconcellos A.S., Adania C.H. & Ades C. (2012) Contrafreeloading in maned wolves: Implications for their management and welfare. Applied Animal Behaviour Science , 140, 85-91