The value of enrichment to reintroduction success

Zoo Biol. May-Jun 2013;32(3):332-41. doi: 10.1002/zoo.21054. Epub 2013 Feb 20.


Reintroduction attempts have faced low, albeit improving, success rates, especially for threatened and endangered species reintroduced from captivity to the wild. This is not only a concern for conservation, as the low success of reintroduction also implies an animal welfare issue for the individuals concerned. Success rates are particularly low for species that live in complex social structures, require greater training during development, and exhibit higher levels of intelligence. Aside from mitigating the original cause of a species extirpation from an area, behavior factors arguably represent the most important aspect influencing an animal's survival following reintroduction. Indeed, we previously recommended using behavioral indicators for determining relative reintroduction success, especially as practitioners develop and compare protocols or if survivorship is difficult to gauge. Strategic enrichment programs targeted toward developing specific skills important for survival in the wild promise to improve reintroduction success by providing individuals with opportunities to develop and improve behavioral skills, such as avoiding predation, foraging (especially for predators and primates), interacting in social groups, courtship and mating, habitat selection, and learning movement and migration routes. Enrichment also improves the physical condition of most individuals, which should also increase reintroduction success. Last but not least, such programs offer the prospect of improved animal welfare both pre- and post-release. We explore how behavioral enrichment has influenced reintroduction success and welfare in a variety of different species.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animal Husbandry / methods*
  • Animal Welfare*
  • Animals
  • Animals, Zoo*
  • Appetitive Behavior / physiology
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Conservation of Natural Resources / methods*
  • Locomotion / physiology
  • Sexual Behavior, Animal / physiology
  • Social Behavior
  • Species Specificity