Radical, A., Normando, S., Ponzio, P. et al. 2023. The effects of the addition of two environmental enrichments on the behavior and fecal cortisol levels of three small felids species (Caracal caracal, Leptailurus serval, Leopardus pardalis) in captivity. Journal of Veterinary Behavior 60, 56–64.

Scientific evidences support the fact that environmental enrichment, when effective, can affect the behavior of animals in captivity in a way suggestive of an improvement in their quality of life. In the internationally published literature about enrichment in captive conditions, some species, such as primates, appear to have received much more attention than others, such as felids. Within the latter, some species, such as the caracal, appear not have been the focus of any enrichment study at all. Therefore, the aim of this study was to evaluate the effects of 2 suspended swinging rope-covered barrels and of a sloped platform on the behavior and fecal cortisol levels of 3 caracals (Caracal caracal), three servals (Leptailurus serval) and 2 ocelots (Leopardus pardalis) in captivity. Animals were observed using a continuous focal animal rule in 4 experimental conditions (before enrichment, addition of the barrels, addition also of the sloped platform, withdrawal of both putative enrichments), repeated for 2 cycles. Fecal samples were collected for cortisol levels analysis. Generalized Estimation Equations, with individual as subject, and experimental condition, cycle, sex, species, and the interaction species by experimental condition as independent variables were used. Pairwise comparisons for experimental condition by species were done to test for significance after Bonferroni correction for multiple comparisons. All the three species showed more social affiliative behavior only when both the barrels and the platform were in the enclosures (P ≤ 0.002), In all species, animals were more visible (i.e., less out of sight) already after the introduction of the first enrichment (hanging barrels, P ≤ 0.005). In the ocelots, fecal cortisol was higher in the baseline condition than in any other condition. Given the importance of affiliative social behavior in animal welfare, the addition of the barrels and the sloped platform appeared to be somewhat an effective environmental enrichment for the individuals under study.

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