Brooks, J., Yoshimura, H., Taki, Y. 2021. Knowledge-based enrichment: Development of a novel enrichment device for captive chimpanzees. Zoo Biology 40(5), 398-406.
The field of environmental enrichment has grown considerably, but most enrichment is still focused on tasks where highly valued food rewards are directly visible. We designed a device which would instead make use of knowledge states, motivational structure, and physical reasoning skills and could use hidden, low-quality food items while remaining low in cost. Food items were hidden in small cardboard tubes and placed snugly inside another, larger, tube such that they were difficult to extract and presented a challenging dexterity and physical reasoning task. Rare favored food items were distributed so animals would be rewarded at irregular intervals. The devices were then presented to two groups of chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) who either had experience extracting food from identical small cardboard tubes or had no such experience. We found that the chimpanzees with no prior experience with the small tubes used the device very little until one individual removed a small tube, revealing the food inside, at which point use time significantly increased. In the knowledgeable group, no change was observed after the first tube retrieval. Individuals in both groups used the devices for over 20 min each on average over a 1-h observation period, and in both facilities at least one device still contained all inner tubes. Our study suggests that enrichment can make use of animals' prior knowledge, that enrichment devices can thus be layered into one another, and reiterates the importance of considering animals' psychology in designing enrichment.