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Running Head: SANDHILL CRANE ENRICHMENT

Sandhill Crane Enrichment


Victoria Noyes
University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

SANDHILL CRANE ENRICHMENT


Abstract
Ecological enrichment is a vital component in the well-being of captive animals. The purpose of
environmental enrichment is to provide captive animals with variety in their enclosures and
choice in their activities. Often in captivity situations, animals develop stereotypical behaviors.
Enrichment is used to decrease these behaviors and to foster natural behaviors with the captive
animals. Observations were taken of two captive Sandhill cranes at the Reflection Riding Nature
Center in Chattanooga, TN before and after addition of a proposed ecological enrichment, a
marsh-like pond. The goals of introducing a pond to the enclosure were to encourage increased
utilization of space by the cranes and to determine whether or not behaviors would be affected.
We hypothesized that the cranes would spend more time foraging in the area of the pond and thus
more time being active in their enclosure. The pond was constructed used rocks, soil, and sand,
and was augmented with cracked corn to develop an initial interest in the area for the cranes and
a purpose to forage. The observations conducted following addition of the enrichment were
compared with baseline observations to determine any changes in space use and behavior.

SANDHILL CRANE ENRICHMENT


Background:
At the Reflection Riding Nature Center in Chattanooga, TN, there is a bonded pair of
Sandhill cranes, born in captivity in 1985. The enclosure for the cranes initially contained a
large, empty basin embedded in the grass. No enrichment was being utilized for the animals. We
proposed to fill the basin with various items and create a marsh to use as enrichment. Enrichment
is a necessary part of responsibly caring for animals in captivity. Some research indicates that
encouraging foraging by hiding or burying food can be beneficial to the animals perception of
the amount of space it has (Chamove). Because of this, we added food to the pond to encourage
use.
Sandhill cranes, though migratory, spend most of their time in river basins, marshes, and
wetlands (National Wildlife Federation). The pond in the enclosure was given marsh-like
qualities to mimic the natural environment of the cranes and to potentially inspire natural
behaviors in the animals.

Materials and Methods:


To build the marsh-like pond for the two Sandhill cranes, several materials were used.
The bottom layer of the pond consisted of large rocks and smaller river stones to fill in the
spaces. Top soil was then added to the rocks, followed by sand to create a firm ground layer. The
top ten to twelve inches were filled with water and peat moss was added to mimic the marshy
natural environment of Sandhill cranes. A small water pump was also added to circulate water
and avoid the growth of any harmful bacteria or the attraction of pests. Cracked corn was added
each day for the cranes to forage for in the pond.

SANDHILL CRANE ENRICHMENT


In order to assess the impact of the use of a marsh-like pond as enrichment for the cranes,
two types of observations were conducted, one looking at behavior and the other at space use.
Prior to installing the enrichment, baseline observations were conducted for one week. After the
enrichment was added, the same observations were performed for one more week. These data
sets were compared to determine changes in the two categories. See below for the ethogram used
for recording behavior and a diagram of the enclosure demonstrating the different zones
established for space use.

Behavior Name
and Code
Feeding - FE
Foraging -FO
Standing - ST
Walking - WA
Scratch/Preen - SP
Sleeping - SL
Stretching - SR
Other - OT
Not Visible - NV

Definition
Animal is stationary; head is at body level and is ingesting food/water
from feeding bucket in Area 5.
Animal is stationary or walking; actively scanning the ground or pool
with head below body level; using bill to pick or dig food from the area.
Animal is standing; head is above body level; actively scanning its
surroundings other than ground or pool
Animal is walking; head is at body level; actively scanning its
surroundings other than ground or pool
Animal uses bill and feet to scratch or peck at body, skin, or feathers;
often accompanied by shaking body and puffing out feathers
Animal has head tucked behind wing and remains standing and
stationary.
Crane is stationary; extends leg and/or wings

4
5

SANDHILL CRANE ENRICHMENT

Data:

Behavior Crane 1
Pre-Enrichment

Post-Enrichment

200
150
100
50
0

Foraging

Standing

Walking

Preening

Sleeping

Feeding

Stretching

Other

Chart 1

Behavior C rane 2
Pre-Enrichment

Post-Enrichment

250
200
150
100
50
0

Chart 2

Foraging

Standing

Walking

Preening

Sleeping

Feeding

Stretching

Other

SANDHILL CRANE ENRICHMENT

Space Use Crane 1 (Pre-Enrichment) Space Use Crane 1 (Post-Enrichment)

10% 5%
3%
1%

27%
46%
4%
23%

Area 1

Area 2

Area 3

81%

Area 4

Area 5

Chart 3

Area 1

Area 2

Area 3

Area 4

Area 5

Chart 4

Space Use Crane 2 (Pre-Enrichment) Space Use Crane 2 (Post-Enrichment)

4% 15%
2%
3%
31%
42%
6%
76%

20%

Area 1

Chart 5

Area 2

Area 3

Area 4

Area 5

Area 1

Chart 6

Area 2

Area 3

Area 4

Area 5

SANDHILL CRANE ENRICHMENT


Discussion:
The primary goal in using a pond as enrichment for the Sandhill cranes was to encourage
greater space utilization within their enclosure. Pre-enrichment, Area 1 contained the empty
basin. Post-enrichment, it included the pond with a food stimulus. As seen in Charts 3 and 4,
time spent by Crane 1 in and around the pond increased from 46% to 86%. Crane 2 had a similar
response in Charts 5 and 6 with an increase from 43% to 91%. With such large shifts in where
the cranes chose to spend the time, it is likely that the pond caused the change.
The secondary goal was to increase activity in the cranes. In Chart 1, the pre-enrichment
behaviors of Crane 1 were predominantly sleeping and foraging, with a 36% majority of
sleeping. Post-enrichment, the sleeping behavior decreased to 8% and foraging increased from
22% to 45% of the time. In Crane 2, sleeping decreased from 7% to less than 1% and foraging
increased from 29% to 55%. With this data, we concluded that the addition of enrichment is
likely the cause of an increase in activity level for the cranes.
The data suggests that the use of a pond as enrichment for the Sandhill cranes did in fact
alter their use of space and behavior, but we cannot be completely sure that this was the cause.
Due to constraints of time and methods used, it was not a feasible option to remove and replace
the enrichment to perform more observations and come to a stronger conclusion of impact. This
causes there to be a degree of uncertainty in the results. However, the data collected gives us a
general idea of the impact enrichment can have on the behavior of captive animals.

SANDHILL CRANE ENRICHMENT


References
Chamove, A. S. (1989). Environmental enrichment: a review. Animal technology, 40(3), 155178.
Sandhill Crane - National Wildlife Federation. (n.d.). Retrieved December 9, 2016, from
http://www.nwf.org/wildlife/wildlife-library/birds/sandhill-crane.aspx