Stereotypies and environmental enrichment in captive Southern Hairy-Nosed Wombats, Lasiorhinus latifrons

Stereotypies and environmental enrichment in captive Southern Hairy-Nosed Wombats, Lasiorhinus latifrons

We had the pleasure of collaborating with the University of Queensland on this research project. Our collaborative work was published in the Journal of Applied Animal Behaviour Science, Volume 126, in June 2010.

To read the full article, please click here.

Also available online at DOI: 10.1016/j.applanim.2010.05.009


A captive colony of 12 (4♂, 8♀) wombats, Lasiorhinus latifrons, was used to investigate stereotypic behaviour in this species and determine the beneficial effects of enrichment on wombat behaviour and wellbeing. The wombats were housed in four groups of 1♂ and 2♀, each in a separate enclosure and subjected to two different treatments:

(1) enrichment, where the animals received two types of enrichment along with a treatment diet and

(2) no-enrichment, where the animals received no such enrichment and were fed the standard diet. Each treatment was implemented twice, for a period of 12 weeks, in a pseudo-random order. Wombat behaviour was remotely observed via digital video surveillance. Each wombat was observed for 12 × 24-h periods during each treatment rotation with behaviours (both major and minor) being recorded at 5-min intervals over each 24-h sampling period.

Eight (67%) of the captive wombats displayed a singular stereotypy in the form of straight-line pacing, boundary pacing, figure-8 pacing or wall climbing. Mean daily time spent stereotyping was variable between individuals (P<0.01) ranging from 61 to 129 min (4-9%), with a mean value of 86.9 ± 6.7 min (6.0 ± 0.5%). There was a significant (P≤0.02) increase in foraging (by 333%, from 7 to 30. min/day) and exploration (by 13%, from 70 to 79. min/day) in response to enrichment. However, enrichment had no effect (P≥0.13) on the time spent stereotyping or being inactive. Enrichment may have been unsuccessful at reducing stereotypic behaviour in the captive wombats due to the wrong type of enrichment being provided (i.e. the underlying problem motivating this behaviour may not have been addressed) or because the expression of this behaviour had become resistant to change, i.e. habit-like and/or perseverative.

Although stereotyping and inactivity were not reduced by enrichment, it still resulted in improved welfare as the animals were given more stimulus diversity, had more choice in behaviour options, had more opportunity to interact with their environment and were able to express a larger amount of natural behaviour.

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