Kelly, R., Rose, P. E. 2024. Assessing the impact of environmental enrichment on behavior in understudied armadillo species: A case study. Zoo Biology 43(1), 100–109.

The implementation of environmental enrichment (EE) can be effective in promoting zoo animal welfare by enhancing the performance of natural or species-typical behaviors. Research on the effects of EE is biased towards larger mammalian species, with less charismatic species being overlooked. Armadillos are one such overlooked example. A captive environment that results in inactivity, obesity, and associated poor health can negatively affect armadillo well-being. The aim of this study was to evaluate how the implementation of four physical object-based EEs could positively affect the behaviors of three armadillo species, housed in four similar exhibits. Behavioral data were collected both before (baseline) and during (treatment) EE periods, alongside of visitor number and environmental temperatures. The EE comprised of a plastic ball or a cardboard tube or a cardboard box, or a scatter-feed, and these were rotated each week of study until each exhibit had received them in turn. Despite the presence of different EE types, activity remained low throughout the study. However, results suggest that the plastic ball and cardboard box increased exploratory behaviors in the armadillos, but no overall increase in activity was noted during the scatter feed. Visitor presence had no effect on armadillo activity, and armadillos showed reduced activity with increasing environmental temperature. Overall, the use of physical object-based EE promoted beneficial natural behaviors in zoo-housed armadillos, but environmental conditions (i.e., temperature) also impacted armadillo activity, suggesting a complicated relationship between an enclosure’s environmental variable and any behavioral husbandry measures.

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