Sneha Krishnan, Eric Klaphake, Sangeeta Rao, Miranda J. Sadar
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Environmental enrichment is a strategy used to improve the welfare of animals under human care. While enrichment techniques for mammals and birds have been studied extensively, reptilian enrichment has received less attention. There has been an increase in enrichment programs for reptiles in zoological institutions, however many are not accompanied by behavioral studies. Detailed recording of behavioral responses to enrichment is necessary to assess the efficacy of the enrichment type and to determine its utility in various settings. In this study, 18 snakes of multiple species, from two Families (Colubridae, Pythonidae), were exposed to four enrichment types (Humid Hide, Olfactory, Climbing, Suspended Hide). Baseline recordings were conducted prior to the introduction of enrichment. Snakes were recorded for two hours after introduction of each item. Five behavior types were identified based on baseline videos: tongue flicking, climbing, hiding, interacting with transparent boundaries, and utilizing non-enrichment items. Interacting with transparent boundaries was classified as an undesirable behavior, while the other four behaviors were classified as desirable. Changes in climbing and tongue flicking behaviors were noted with introduction of each item- these changes were not statistically significant. The increase in these behaviors may indicate clinical importance, and shows that snakes under human care respond to environmental enrichment. As some snakes showed a reduction in undesirable behaviors when compared to baseline conditions, this may suggest increased welfare during times when enrichment is offered. The extent to which these results can be applied to other species merits further study.

Copyright 2022 by American Association of Zoo Veterinarians
Sneha Krishnan, Eric Klaphake, Sangeeta Rao, and Miranda J. Sadar "THE EFFECT OF VARIED ENRICHMENT TYPES ON SNAKE BEHAVIOR," Journal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine 53(2), 266-274, (16 June 2022). https://doi.org/10.1638/2020-0031
Accepted: 12 January 2022; Published: 16 June 2022
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