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Environmental enrichment devices (EEDs) have been proven to promote positive wellbeing in zoos and aquariums, and support animals' reintroduction success; however, their use in rehabilitation centers is still limited. This pilot study investigated the safety and efficacy of three EEDs, Artificial Kelp, Horse KONG™ and Wubba Kong™, and their ability to decrease and/or eliminate undesired stereotypic behaviors or looking at staff/staff areas in seven wild California sea lions (CSLs) and eight northern elephant seals (NESs) undergoing rehabilitation in Southern California. Observers conducted instantaneous sampling once a minute during a 30-min baseline, followed by a 30-min EED implementation on one focal animal at a time. The data were analyzed with generalized linear mixed models (GLMM). All three EEDs were found to be durable and safe throughout the study. Our results show a significant reduction in stereotypical behaviors compared to no EED treatments in CSLs, with the most significant effect being with the Horse KONG™. The Wubba KONG™ and Artificial Kelp provisions also reduced the undesired behavior in both species of being focused on human caretakers. Individual preferences for specific EEDs were found within species and between species, with the NESs using EEDs more than the CSLs. This study highlights the beneficial aspect of EEDs for pinnipeds in rehabilitation centers for improving their quality of life.


rehabilitation, pinnipeds, environmental enrichment, animal welfare, stereotypic behavior, habituation


PMID: 37048479



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