Behaviorual instability in two African wild dogs in Aalborg Zoo

Esther Magdalene Ellersgaard Enevoldsen, Jonas Kara Dukars, Josephine Vestmar, Nete Helt Zielke*, Oliver Emil Søndergaard Gert, Rune Bach Holmegaard, Trine Hammer Jensen, Sussie Pagh, Aage Kristian Olsen Alstrup, Cino Pertoldi

*Corresponding author for this work

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This study is based on two African wild dogs (AWD) (Lycaon pictus), a male and a female, in Aalborg Zoo, Denmark. The female has never raised any of her litters and all cubs have died soon after birth. Zoo staff hypothesized, that this could be due to several management factors including stress induced from the parking lot/road situated just outside the enclosure and the female’s lack of experience with raising cubs. A willow fence was put up to isolate the dogs visually from the outside. The purpose of this study was to analyze if habitat enrichment and olfactory enrichment could affect the behavioral reaction patterns of the AWDs. Individual behavior patterns are an indicator of differences in personality and a measure of welfare. The study was divided into a control period, a habitat enrichment period and an olfactory enrichment period each consisting of 3 days with 8 hours of video recording per day. An ethogram, based on previous observations of the AWD and a pilot study, was composed, and all behaviors observed were categorized. Various analysis and plots showed that, although some differences in specific behaviors and behavioral reaction patterns were present, the AWDs did not have a clear difference in personality. A difference in behavioural instability was found between two dogs when introduced to the enrichments. Due to changes in activity, it was concluded that the male reacted more positively to the habitat enrichment and the female reacted more positively when introduced to the olfactory enrichment. Several other categories of behaviour were observed in this study but, due to a low degree of data saturation, only data for behaviours “locomotion” and “standing still” were considered saturated enough to be used for data analysis.
Original languageEnglish
JournalGenetics and Biodiversity Journal
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)87-100
Publication statusPublished - 2021


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