Concepts, applications, uses and evaluation of environmental enrichment: Perceptions of zoo professionals

Lisa Riley, Paul Rose

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


It is imperative that zoo-based Environmental Enrichment (EE) is underpinned by an evidence-based approach, yet research suggests considerable taxonomic bias in EE provision and a tendency for keepers to rely on food-based EE despite multiple EE categories being available. To better understand potential barriers to the dissemination of information on EE for underrepresented taxa and categories
of EE, a workshop was run at the 19th BIAZA Research Conference in summer 2017. Six taxa (domestic species, non-parrot birds, small mammalian carnivores, reptiles/amphibians and fish/invertebrates) plus non-food-based EE were discussed by six focus groups who answered a standardised set of questions as part of a semi-structured interview. Deductive thematic analysis and Principal Component Analysis were applied to coded themes from the delegates’ discourse. Results suggest that delegates were focused upon two underlying themes: measures of animal quality of life and the use or lack of information. Both themes were evidenced in the discourse of all focus groups for all five EE subject areas (EE concept and terminology; need for EE; barriers to EE; use of literature; evaluation of EE). Results suggest that zoo professionals have: i) a holistic view of animal welfare that relies on species’ behavioural ecology to inform practice, ii) a multifactorial view on EE concepts, iii) an approach
that sees EE as core husbandry but in practice a luxury due to barriers in implementing it and iv) an understanding that literature provides ideas for EE. Delegates note that effort to diversify provision is required and research into EE use can overcome barriers to implementation, determine an animal’s need for EE and help measure the success of EE. Delegates discussed the lack of literature on EE across categories and taxa, supporting conclusions of previous published research in this area of husbandry. Further research on how EE can be used for underrepresented animal groups is required if zoo-based practice is to continue to progress.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)18-28
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Zoo and Aquarium Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2020


  • Keeper opinions
  • barriers to enrichment
  • food-based bias
  • taxonomic-bias
  • workshop
  • 2020

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