Directions in animal enclosure use studies


  • James Edward Brereton University Centre Sparsholt



enclosure use, exhibit design, Spread of Participation Index, Electivity Index, evidence-based zoo animal management


Post Occupancy Evaluation is a powerful assessment tool for zoo enclosure design, which incorporates animal enclosure use as a key component. Many authors suggest that naturalistic enclosures are valuable for animals, but objective analysis is required to support this statement. Studies of zoo animal enclosure use have become increasingly popular in published literature, and best practice enclosure design has now been investigated for many taxa. Several techniques are available to test animal enclosure use, including Spread of Participation Index (SPI), Electivity index, behavioural diversity and stereotypy prevalence. Given the variety of methods accessible to researchers, there is a need to evaluate which indices would best suit the research goals for a range of taxa. This review revealed a bias in favour of enclosure research for large carnivores and primates, though studies have also been initiated for birds and fish. Original SPI is well represented in published studies, as is stereotypy as a measure of enclosure suitability. By contrast, few published studies have used modified SPI, or Electivity index, which allow enclosures to be analysed at a resource level. Several influential studies combined behavioural analyses with SPI measurements to best understand animal enclosure use. Future directions in enclosure use may include the evaluation of thermal effects on enclosures, effects of visitors on zone use, and closer associations between enclosure use and associated behaviours.


Author Biography

James Edward Brereton, University Centre Sparsholt

HE lecturer in Zoo Biology




How to Cite

Brereton, J. E. (2020). Directions in animal enclosure use studies. Journal of Zoo and Aquarium Research, 8(1), 1–9.



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