Miglioli, A., da Silva Vasconcellos, A. 2021. Can behavioural management improve behaviour and reproduction in captive blue-and-yellow macaws (Ara ararauna)? Applied Animal Behaviour Science 241, 105386.
Environments that do not provide animals with appropriate stimuli may affect their welfare and reproduction, for example by precluding them from exhibiting their full behavioural repertoire. In this study, we sought to evaluate the effectiveness of behavioural management techniques to stimulate the exhibition of normal behaviours, and to promote breeding improvement of nine captive pairs of blue-and-yellow macaws (Ara ararauna). Birds’ behaviours were recorded in five 4-week stages: baseline (BL), physical enrichment (PE), feeding enrichment (FE), cognitive enrichment (CE), and post-enrichment (PO). Three times a week, five 5-minute behavioural observation sessions took place for every animal by focal sampling, with records made every 30 s. Egg production was also recorded. Behaviours recorded in the experimental stages were compared with BL; egg production during the study period was compared with the productivity of the first six months of 2014–2017 (Repeated-Measures ANOVA/Dunnet or Friedmann/Dunn). The FE stage promoted increased foraging and movement (p < 0.01, p < 0.05, respectively), and a reduction in inactivity (p < 0.01) and in object destruction (p < 0.05). The stages CE and PE also promoted reduction in rest (p < 0.05 for both) and increase in movement (p < 0.01, p < 0.05, respectively). We also recorded a numerical increase in sexual behaviour in PE and a decrease in behaviours indicative of dysfunction (stereotypies), especially in FE. Egg production increased in the experimental period only compared to 2014 (p < 0.05). Decreases in object destruction, in dysfunctional behaviours, and increases in activity and in foraging have long been correlated with improvements in welfare conditions. The strategies applied may have allowed the birds to spend more energy, resulting in more active, less bored animals. As we recorded a slight increase in reproductive behaviours, the lack of a measurable effect of enrichment on egg production may be due to a need of the birds’ physiology to adapt to the new conditions of environment and activity. Our results indicate that the techniques used have the potential to promote improvements in the birds’ behavioural repertoire and, possibly, in the reproduction of the study species, when in captivity. This information is relevant to ex-situ conservation, and can also contribute to in-situ conservation efforts.