Animal Science

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How to educate the public while providing a portable environmentally enriched wagon to a North American Porcupine

2017-04-01 , Deal, Madison , Animal Science

During scheduled times throughout the day, zookeepers will give educational presentations. It is important to allow animals to engage in natural behaviors. The objectives of this project were to (a) construct a wagon and (b) to ascertain if the wagon allowed for normal porcupine behaviors to be expressed during formal presentations at the Omaha Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium. A wagon was designed and built, that took approximately 53 hours with two persons. To test the wagon’s effectiveness one North American Porcupine (7.3 kg) was used. Baseline: The porcupine spent ~76% of her time either on the stage or the floor within the Pavilion, spent ~43% eating and ~20% target training. Habituation: With the wagon, floor time decreased (~16%), time on the wagon was ~77% and target training was ~14%. Public: Wagon time was ~79%, stage/floor time decreased to ~19% and target training was ~9%. The porcupine’s eating time also increased from ~43% (baseline) to ~59% (public). In conclusion, the construction of the wagon was successful and it provided her enrichment allowing her to exhibit her natural behaviors in front of the general public.