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Behavioural stereotypies in captive animals have been defined as repetitive, largely invariant patterns of behaviour that serve no obvious goal or function (Mason, 1991a; Ödberg, 1978). Stereotypies are commonly attributed to boredom and/or fear and are typically “treated” by trying to enrich the captive environment with distracting, appealing stimuli. These stimuli often include food presented at times outside of regular feeding times, and as a result, engage species-typical foraging behaviours in the process of reducing stereotypic activity.
This presentation examines the defining features and common hypotheses surrounding stereotypies, including what their function is and how they can be addressed. Of primary concern will be (1) what are stereotypies (what does and doesn’t meet the definition), (2) specific examples of how they’ve been discussed and dealt with, and (3) practical solutions for applied animal behaviourists for both defining and treating stereotypies. Emphasis will be placed on an empirical, functional approach to dealing with stereotypies, including how any scientist and/or practitioner can be most effective when dealing with this topic.
- What are stereotypies in terms of their definition and examples?
- How do we talk about stereotypies in terms of their form and function?
- What evidence supports their hypothesised functions?
- How are most stereotypies treated, and which of these treatments are most effective?
- What does an empirical, functional approach to stereotypies look like, and why is this important for both science and practice?
About The Presenter
Eduardo J Fernandez, PhD
School of Behavior Analysis, Florida Institute of Technology
Dr. Eduardo J. Fernandez received his Ph.D. in Psychology (minors in Neuroscience and Animal Behavior) from Indiana University, where he worked with the Indianapolis and Cincinnati Zoo. He received his M.S. in Behavior Analysis from the University of North Texas, where he founded and was President of the Organization for Reinforcement Contingencies with Animals (ORCA). Most of his past and current work involves conducting research on the behavioural welfare of captive exotic animals found in zoos and aquariums. He has worked with close to 50 species of animals, with a focus on marine animals, carnivores, and primates. He is currently a Visiting Professor in the School of Behavior Analysis at Florida Institute of Technology. His past positions include an Affiliate Professorship in the Psychology Department at University of Washington, Research Fellowship with Woodland Park Zoo, and National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship. While working with UW and Woodland Park Zoo, he started the Behavioral Enrichment Animal Research (BEAR) group, which conducted welfare research with the African and Asian elephants, hippos, Humboldt penguins, grizzly bears, sun bears, sloth bears, Sumatran tigers, jaguars, African wild dogs, meerkats, golden lion tamarins, and ostriches located at the zoo. Eduardo also continues to run the Animal Reinforcement Forum (ARF), a former listserv and now Facebook group, which is dedicated to group discussions on animal training and behaviour from a scientific perspective.