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Does positive reinforcement training affect the behaviour and welfare of zoo animals? The case of the ring-tailed lemur (Lemur catta)

Spiezio, C.; Vaglio, S.; Scala, C.; Regaiolli, B.

Does positive reinforcement training affect the behaviour and welfare of zoo animals? The case of the ring-tailed lemur (Lemur catta) Thumbnail


Authors

C. Spiezio

S. Vaglio

C. Scala

B. Regaiolli



Abstract

Positive reinforcement training (PRT) is an established tool to facilitate animal husbandry, care and research in modern zoos, with potential positive implications for captive animal welfare. The study explored the role of an isolation PRT training programme on the well-being of ring-tailed lemurs (Lemur catta). Eleven subjects were observed during an isolation training protocol to induce the animals to enter an area (training area) calmly and retrieve rewards separated from group members. Duration of individual and social behaviours were collected over two different periods: the baseline period, before the beginning of the isolation training protocol and the training period, in which the collection of the data started at the end of the isolation training sessions. Additionally, behavioural data within the isolation training sessions (latency to enter the training area and retrieve the reward, display of stress-related behaviours) were recorded. Outside the training sessions, lemurs were out of sight significantly more in the baseline (Mean ± SD: 15.46 ± 5.20) than in the training (Mean ± SD: 4.36 ± 2.89) period. Social behaviour was performed significantly more in the training (Mean ± SD: 31.80 ± 12.34) than in the baseline (Mean ± SD: 12.52 ± 5.14) period; particularly, lemurs were in social contact significantly more in the training (Mean ± SD: 14.09 ± 6.00) than in the baseline period (Mean ± SD: 4.58 ± 2.73). Agonistic behaviours were performed significantly more in the baseline (Mean ± SD: 0.23 ± 0.15) than in the training (Mean ± SD: 0.07 ± 0.07) period. Within the training sessions, all the individuals entered the training area, were isolated from conspecifics, and retrieved the reward in 6 out of 9 sessions. Our findings show that, during the PRT period, lemurs displayed their natural behaviour in their everyday social life with significant increase of their affiliative behaviours and decrease of aggressive behaviours with benefits for their welfare status. Thus, lemurs were able to cope with the use of PRT to isolate each individual from its social group – a situation which, without training, might be very stressful. In conclusion, PRT may play a crucial role for the captive management of ring-tailed lemurs in captive facilities, including zoos.

Citation

Spiezio, C., Vaglio, S., Scala, C., & Regaiolli, B. (2017). Does positive reinforcement training affect the behaviour and welfare of zoo animals? The case of the ring-tailed lemur (Lemur catta). Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 196, 91-99. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.applanim.2017.07.007

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jul 27, 2017
Online Publication Date Aug 5, 2017
Publication Date Nov 1, 2017
Deposit Date Sep 30, 2016
Publicly Available Date Aug 5, 2018
Journal Applied Animal Behaviour Science
Print ISSN 0168-1591
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 196
Pages 91-99
DOI https://doi.org/10.1016/j.applanim.2017.07.007
Keywords Lemur catta, Training programme, Captive primate behaviour, Animal well-being.
Related Public URLs http://wlv.openrepository.com/wlv/handle/2436/620631

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