University of Central Florida Undergraduate Research Journal - Studying the Effects of Predatory Presence and Enrichment on Cryptoprocta ferox Behavior
US tab


It was hypothesized that P. p. orientalis would alter the behavior of the female. C. ferox, who was expected to increase pacing and head rolling after P. p. orientalis moved to the new enclosure. The null hypothesis was not rejected, meaning P. p. orientalis did not affect the female C. ferox. Early in the study, the keepers introduced items from P. p. orientalis’ enclosure to C. ferox’s enclosure. The enclosure housing P. p. orientalis at the time was in a private area in the back of the zoo. These actions were taken to introduce its scent to C. ferox and prevent stress once the individual was introduced nearby. When P. p. orientalis was present in the area the female was prepared for the persisting scent of a new predator. It is believed this procedure also reinforces the feeling of security to Shelby because when the scent was introduced, she was not in any immediate danger of being attacked.

Head rolls and pacing were indicators of stress for Shelby (Dickie and Phil, 2005, Central Florida Zoo, personal communication). Enrichment was used to decrease this stress and increase her interactions with her enclosure. According to Figure 2, there was no significant difference between the amount of pacing observed before and after the swapping of enrichment from the previous day. Figure 3 showed there was no significant difference between the number of head rolls before and after this daily event. 

The introduction of scents into Shelby’s enclosure provided her with the appropriate environment and time to process the new predator’s scent. Shelby was also near the clouded leopard (Neofelis nebulosa) and was occasionally given items from its enclosure. The keepers continue to reinforce positive reactions to the scents by including them in enrichment. A 2006 study by Clubb and Vickery also suggests providing the female C. ferox with more hiding spaces.  Hiding spaces are known to decrease stereotypy levels in species near large predators (Clubb and Vickery, 2006) because it provides a sense of security. Hearing and smelling the leopards, which were also suggested by Clubb and Vickery (2006), could decrease pacing in the species near large predators. 

The keepers were concerned by the amount of pacing and number of head rolls Shelby was presenting. Enrichment was an obvious solution to decrease both unwanted behaviors due to boredom. Unfortunately, there was no significant change between the two periods of the day. This time also included foraging, meaning the pacing and head rolls may not have been the result of boredom or hunger. In other words, there was another stressor in the environment causing Shelby to display stereotypic pacing far above the expected daily percentage (Dickie and Phil, 2005). 

According to the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA, 2011), C. ferox individuals should be housed in enclosures of 29 m2 and their enclosures should have a vertical height of 2.4 meters. Shelby was housed in an enclosure that was approximately 12.6m2 and 3.6 meters in height (Figure 4). Not having adequate space to patrol could be a possible source of stress. The zoo has plans to remove Malala from his adjacent enclosure and to begin construction to connect the enclosures for breeding, and the zoo were also planning to expand the den area for the female when she is parturient. Supported by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, this remedial action may decrease the amount of pacing in the female when the enclosure is larger. The enclosures will need to be increased by 25% to account for the introduction of a new C. ferox (AZA 2011). 

Figure 4. Diagram of fossa enclosure

The zoo planned to breed Shelby to Malala. Reproductive success will be increased by decreased levels of stress. The introduction of scents of soon-to-be introduced animals was suggested for assimilation. The zoo had already begun swapping items between the male and female to prepare for breeding. The two C. ferox also could visually see each other when at certain heights of the enclosure. The re-introduction of Malala will be necessary after his absence from the enclosure during construction (Association of Zoos and Aquariums et al. 2011). Continued scent swapping will encourage a positive re-introduction.

By way of comparison, study was done at multiple zoos to observe captive behaviors of C. ferox (Dickie and Phil, 2005). At Marwell Zoo in Germany, it was found that the female devoted an average of 24% of her active time to pacing. This observation was identical to the amount of time the female devotes to pacing at the Central Florida Zoo. At Zoo Duisburg, “head flicking” was observed as a repetitive behavior in a female C. ferox and was like the behavior of Central Florida Zoo’s Shelby presented (Dickie and Phil, 2005). Dickie and Phil (2005) suggest more complex enclosures and enrichment to decrease pacing. Shelby was given several types of enrichment including visual, scent, tactile, and keeper engagement. There was not a significant difference in head roll and pacing before and after the exchange of enrichment. A possible solution would be to increase the frequency Shelby is fed or to increase the complexity of enrichment (Clubb and Vickery, 2006).