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Title: Can cognitive challenge enhance the psychological well-being of large-brained mammals in zoos?
Author: Clarke, Fay Elaine
Awarding Body: Royal Veterinary College (University of London)
Current Institution: Royal Veterinary College (University of London)
Date of Award: 2013
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The link between cognitive challenge and captive animal well-being has received increased interest over the past decade, but so far this link in zoo animals has been overlooked. This is particularly surprising for chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) and bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) because these two 'large-brained' species have been the subjects of intensive cognitive research in captivity over the past six decades. In this thesis, I ask whether novel maze-like devices which aim to be cognitively challenging (abbreviated to 'devices with a cognitive component', DCCs) can be enriching for a mixed-sex group of chimpanzees and two single-sex groups of dolphins housed in zoos. I design, implement and evaluate two DCCs, and employ a new definition of cognitive enrichment that incorporates cognitive challenge and indicators of positive well-being. I demonstrate that two types of DCC for chimpanzees, one constructed from a grid of transparent cells and one from an array of opaque pipes, could be mastered using a number of problem-solving strategies (Chapter 5 and 6). DCC-use by chimpanzees increased when the DCC was less predictable (Chapter 5), but the relationship between self-directed behaviour and cognitive challenge was not straightforward (Chapter 6). In dolphins, only male subjects used an underwater DCC constructed from an array of opaque pipes, and could reflect a general sex difference in response to a novel situation (Chapter 7). In general, the chimpanzees and dolphins groups I studied showed some signs of enhanced well-being, for example increased environmental exploration and play, during exposure to DCCs. However, other behavioural responses such as increased vigilance in dolphins were difficult to interpret and did not suggest that DCCs were enriching. Both species 'worked' in the absence of food rewards and their success on the tasks (i.e. the removal of food or non-food rewards) had little effect on wellbeing indicators (Chapter 5 - 7). Finally, I demonstrate that lateralised behaviour (preference to perform behaviour using one side of the body) can be incorporated into the study of cognitive enrichment (Chapter 8).
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Psychological research, Cognition, Dolphins - Behavior, Chimpanzees, Primates - Psychology