A therapeutic environmental enrichment programme for managing pathological behaviour in the fossa (<i>Cryptoprocta ferox</i>)
This study is based on an adult male fossa (Cryptoprocta ferox) that arrived at Garda Zoological Park (Italy) exhibiting stereotyped and self-injuring behaviours and follows its subsequent rehabilitation through a long-term environmental enrichment programme. Data were collected over a period of six months. Continuous focal animal sampling was used to collect behavioural data during 90-minute sessions; 24 sessions took place over the first two months and two sessions took place six months after his arrival. Data were analysed using non-parametric tests. At the beginning of the study period, the predatory behaviour of the fossa was not species-specific since he was not able to find food items when they were hidden in the enclosure. It usually interacted with items for just a few minutes. Rubbing different scents on enclosure furniture promoted play only for a few minutes. After two months of behavioural observations, its behaviour only improved slightly and stereotyped and self-injuring behaviours were maintained. However, we continued the intense enrichment programme for a longer period. Six months after its arrival rare undesirable behaviours or noticeable side effects were observed whilst species-specific behaviours were recorded. Results showed that the environmental enrichment curtailed the aberrant behaviours. In conclusion, this case study provides evidence supporting the hypothesis that a suitable enrichment programme could have a therapeutic effect on pathological behaviour in captive animals.
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