Key issue – important role of individual enrichment and current evaluation of its efficacy

The 9th International Conference on Environmental Enrichment for zoo animals was hosted by the Paignton Zoo Environmental Park and held in Torquay, from May 31 to June 5, 2009. 70 talks and presentations were given and 49 posters presented to more than 200 participants of the Conference. The Moscow Zoo presented three posters: Training Pallas`s Cats for Veterinary Procedures Without Physical Restrain or Anaesthesia by I. Alekseicheva, The Dynamics of Familiarity with New Objects In Groups of Two Lemur Species by V. Meshik, and One Kinkajou and 4 Keepers – Problem Is Solved from Outside by E. Neprintseva and I. Voshanova. Our colleagues from Leningrad Zoo gave a presentation about mongooses’ reaction to new objects, and presented a poster on environmental enrichment for carnivores.

Key topics of the Conference were connected with the important role of individual enrichment and current evaluation of its efficacy. In order to correctly adjust enrichment programs to the needs of individual animals, it is necessary to develop evaluation methods that will help to assess the efficacy of such programs and at the same time, will be user friendly for keepers. The task of adequate evaluation of zoo enrichment programs is quite difficult, and further studies are required for its implementation. It is important to investigate the factors that influence the effectiveness of enrichment methods.

Various aspects of the use of plants in environmental enrichment were also discussed at the Conference. An emphasis was put on the significance of cognitive enrichment.

The theoretical basis of environmental enrichment was another main issue of the conference. The importance of developing a theoretical basis for environmental enrichment programs was recognized by the participants of the previous conference. The 9th Conference included a separate session on theoretical problems. Most of the presentations addressed issues of predictability and controllability of the environment, which had already been raised by Sergey Popov at the 8th International Conference on Environmental Enrichment. Traditional topics were also discussed at the Conference 2009, including the development of new methods and techniques of enrichment, the use of operant conditioning based on positive reinforcement as a tool of animal welfare improvement, development of enrichment programs and education issues. A number of sessions were focused on environmental enrichment for fish and reptiles.

Zoo Animals: Behaviour, Management and Welfare book was presented to the participants of the Conference. The book has been written by English experts in zoo biology Geoff Hosey (University of Bolton), Vicki Melfi (Paignton Zoo Environmental Park) and Sheila Pankhurst (Anglia Ruskin University).