Does simple feeding enrichment raise activity levels of captive ring-tailed lemurs?

Source: Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 2009, volume 116, issue 1
Feeding enrichment is a commonly proposed way to promote natural behavior, greater activity levels and improved health in captive primates, but in many cases the methods have not been formally tested, especially for particular groups such as lemurs.
We investigated whether simple changes in food presentation could increase activity levels in captive ring-tailed lemurs (Lemur catta) and reduce the removal by lemurs of food intended for hyrax (Procavia capensis) and porcupine (Hystrix cristata) (pirating) housed in the same enclosure. We varied two aspects of food presentation for a population of eight L. catta housed at the Santa Ana Zoo in a repeated measures, factorial design: the presence or absence of browse in food boxes, and the clumping or spatial separation of food boxes. The number of animals in the group engaged in different categories of behaviors was recorded with scans every 60 s for 2 h after feeding. Neither the addition of browse (P = 0.58) nor spatial separation of food boxes (P = 0.13) increased lemur activity levels in the first 70 min post-feeding, but addition of browse significantly raised activity in the last 50 min (P = 0.038). Adding browse more than doubled (to 78%) the percentage of observation periods when at least one lemur was active after 70 min post-feeding and increased the percentage of active behaviors during that period from less than 4% to over 13%. Spatially separating food boxes reduced pirating (P = 0.021), but addition of browse did not (P = 0.89). Separating food boxes reduced pirating by nearly half. Given that these methods are inexpensive, easy to implement and also led to significant behavioral changes, simple feeding enrichment of this kind is a useful potential tool for captive ring-tailed lemur management.

Title: Does simple feeding enrichment raise activity levels of captive ring-tailed lemurs (Lemur catta)?

Authors: Diana L. Dishman, Diane M. Thomson and Nina J. Karnovsky