Claydon, M., Brereton, J., Rose, P. 2024. Never be mute about bird welfare: Swanning around with environmental enrichment. Zoo Biology 43(1), 83–91.

Environmental enrichment (EE) is commonly provided to animals managed under human care, being beneficial to behavioral diversity and improving animal welfare. Use of EE appears to be particularly beneficial to individual wild animals spending a short period of time in captivity, for example, as part of conservation or rehabilitation programs. This paper documents a case study on the application and relevance of EE for a group of captive mute swans housed in a rescue center. Observational data were analyzed for two groups of juvenile swans that were provided with a physical EE device to increase time spent foraging. Periods of no EE were observed and compared to data from when birds were provided with EE. Results show that EE promoted foraging time and helped to reduce long periods of inactivity in captive birds. EE helped to reduce occurrence of captive-focused (i.e., abnormal behaviors) although these was already seen at very low rates. Inactivity as a measure of welfare in captive swans specifically (and waterbirds generally) should be further investigated to understand potential impacts on bird health. Our research shows the benefits of simple and easy-to-use EE devices on captive animal behavior and how use of EE for individuals spending a short amount of time in captivity (e.g., within a rescue center) could ensure diversity of behavior patterns and promote the performance of adaptive behaviors upon release to the wild.

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