Student Study: Improving Welfare of Captive Birds of Prey

Captive birds of preyDoctoral student Melissa Nelson Slater (Psychology) coauthored a new study published in Zoo Biology about how olfactory enrichment, or using scent cues, can improve the welfare of birds of prey in zoos.
In the first part of their study, Nelson Slater, the assistant curator of behavioral husbandry at the Bronx Zoo, and her co-author, Professor Mark Hauber (GC/Hunter, Biology), introduced wrapped food packages scented with peppermint oil to birds of prey.

The researchers later gave the birds empty packages, some scented and some not. The birds handled the scented packages more often and more extensively, suggesting they had learned to associate the scent with food.  
“Because most birds of prey are primarily visual hunters, this study demonstrates that olfactory senses may be more important to some birds of prey than previously considered,” Nelson Slater says. “It empirically validates the use of scent as an enrichment tool and demonstrates the need for ongoing evaluation of existing animal enrichment practices to promote the welfare of animals in human care.”

Submitted on: MAR 16, 2017

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