Vicino, G. A., Sheftel, J. J., Radosevich, L. M. 2022. Enrichment is simple, that’s the problem: Using outcome-based husbandry to shift from enrichment to experience. Animals 12(10), 1293.
Over the decades, the use of environmental enrichment has evolved from a necessary treatment to a “best practice” in virtually all wildlife care settings. The breadth of this evolution has widened to include more complex inputs, comprehensive evaluation of efficacy, and countless commercially available products designed to provide for a myriad of species-typical needs. Environmental enrichment, however, remains almost inexorably based on the provision of inputs (objects, manipulanda, or other sensory stimuli) intended to enhance an environment or prolong a specific behavior. Considerable effort has been put into developing enrichment strategies based on behavioral outcomes to shift the paradigm from the traditional input-heavy process. We believe that this trajectory can be enhanced through Outcome-Based Husbandry using an ethologically based workflow tool with a universal application (regardless of species) that flushes out inputs based on desired outcomes, which can then be incorporated into daily care or layered to create sensory cue-based multi-day events. Furthermore, we believe that this strategy can drive practitioners from the confines of traditional enrichment and the object-based approach into a dynamic and holistic husbandry program that synthesizes complex experiences into regular animal care, rather than supplementing husbandry with input-based enrichment. Focusing on an animal’s complete experience and outcomes that promote competence building and the highest level of agency allows the animals, not care staff, to make meaningful decisions that impact their present and future selves.