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Cheetah, Environmental enrichment (Animal culture), Behavioral assessment, Smell, African cheetah, Captivity, Olfactory stimuli, Behavioral analyses
Environmental enrichment is used in zoos to introduce new stimuli to captive animals in order to improve their health through increased activity and decreased stress (Wells, 2009). This experiment sought to analyze the practical use of ecologically relevant scents as enrichment tools for captive cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus) at two zoos in Ohio, the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden and The Wilds. As cats use scent marking for inter- and intra-specific communication in the wild (Hunter, 2005), this study observed the behavioral responses of cheetahs to enrichment stimuli from the urine of African herbivores and carnivores. The goals of these experimental observations were to analyze the importance of this sense for cheetahs and to understand the effectiveness of these stimuli as enrichment tools. Captive cheetahs interacted longer with the scented objects than the unscented controls, while they investigated the herbivore scents more often than the carnivore-scented objects. Measurements throughout the trials of activity level and of the presence of important rare behaviors, including scent marking and rolling, resulted in no differences per scent type, species scent, or when comparing the subjects' behaviors before and after the enrichment was introduced. Similar behaviors were observed at both zoo locations. The increased interest in the olfactory stimuli and the resultant presence of natural, species-appropriate behaviors demonstrate the potential for these scents to be used as environmental enrichment in zoos to support the welfare of their captive animals through guided inter-specific interactions.
Maynard, Lily Thane, "Making sense of environmental enrichment : the behavioral responses of captive African cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus) to ecologically relevant scents" (2011). Honors Project, Smith College, Northampton, MA.
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