The Effect of a Moving Bait on the Behaviour of Captive Cheetahs (Acinonyx Jubatus)
Members of the cat family are highly motivated to hunt, but in captivity are unable to do so for a variety of reasons. This inability to hunt may reduce their welfare. In this study we used a moving bait to stimulate and release hunting motivation in two captive cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus). Essentially our enrichment device consisted of a dead rabbit, hung from a pulley, just above the ground, moving down a 34 metre length of wire by the force of gravity. We observed the cheetahs for 140 minutes per day over three sequential food presentation periods: Baseline (10 consecutive days), Device (10 consecutive days) and Post-device (5 consecutive days). The moving bait significantly increased the frequency of sprinting (hunting) and time spent performing observations. It significantly decreased time spent in affiliation and feeding. These effects were also observed at times other than when the moving bait was presented. Thus, a moving bait allows captive cheetahs to perform 'natural-looking' hunting in captivity.
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