An Investigation into the Effects of Auditory Enrichment on Zoo-Housed Meerkats (Suricata Suricatta)
Environmental enrichment is now a staple practice in animal husbandry that plays an important role in providing the highest level of welfare for animals in captivity. It involves enhancing animals’ environments to allow them to perform diverse, species-specific behaviours, thus improving the animals’ physical, mental and social wellbeing. This study investigates auditory enrichment. Natural sounds were played to four zoo-housed meerkats, and their behaviours were monitored using instantaneous scan sampling and their sentry behaviour was timed. The sounds played were meerkat calls, predator calls and savannah sounds; these were tested against a control of no additional sound played to the meerkats’ environment but the enclosures’ standard background sound of rainforest noise that was played continuously through tests. All three sound manipulations significantly increased total positive behaviours (such as movement, foraging and socialising) and increased the meerkats’ time spent on sentry duty, and significantly decreased occurrence of stereotypical behaviours (repetitive actions such as pacing) and inactivity. These results are a positive step in research of enrichment for meerkats, contributing to a growing body of evidence showing the beneficial effects of auditory enrichment on a wide variety of captive animals, including zoo-housed elephants and shelter dogs.