AUTOMATED ENRICHMENT FOR ENHANCING ANIMAL AND RESEARCHER WELFARE
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"Captive animals lead lives that are extremely limited in activity compared to conspecifics in the wild. To compensate for the lack of stimulation compared to the wild, enrichment supplementation is standard practice at the Schubot Center at Texas A&M University. Enhancing animal enrichment is becoming an increasingly important topic among many in the zoological and veterinary communities as an escalating amount of animals are kept in captivity. Static toys are often used in enrichment, but often become monotonous, are destroyed, or do not provide adequate stimulation for the animal to thrive. In order to provide a more sustainable form of animal enrichment, a digital enrichment device was developed and tested using two Quaker Parakeets, Myiopsitta monachus. This digital enrichment, or digital toy, was utilized as a part of the birds’ normal care to offer a game that could not be destroyed by the animal, while also providing fluctuating mental stimulation. This enrichment consisted of a game that automatically recorded information about the bird’s interactions via a tablet and provided insight into each birds’ learning rate. The individuals were compared using chi square analysis, comparison of means, and linear regression to detect the variability of response to enrichment. Both birds interacted with the device and were successful in playing the game on the computer screen, but during different times in the trials. The male was more active (measured as vocalizations per second) overall, but took more sessions to be at peak activity, while the female started at a slightly higher interaction rate but slightly decreased over time. The male also began having high accuracy (measured as hits/ total responses), but declined over trials, while the female increased her accuracy. Though there must be further studies conducted on this technology to provide a stronger base, this design shows feasibility of digital toys for sustainable enrichment for animals in captivity, and using digital enrichment toys as a method for data collection within animal research."
Strange, Taylor L (2015). AUTOMATED ENRICHMENT FOR ENHANCING ANIMAL AND RESEARCHER WELFARE. Honors and Undergraduate Research. Available electronically from