Novel Environmental Enrichment May Provide a Tool for Rapid Assessment of Animal Personality: A Case Study With Giant Pandas (Ailuropoda melanoleuca)
AbstractHistorically, the assessment of nonhuman animal personality has included a variety of methods—from direct behavioral observations in a variety of test situations to assessments provided by animal caretakers or trainers. Careful observation of how animals in zoos interact with novel enrichment may provide reliable insight into their personality. This study sought to describe a process for evaluating whether different methods of assessing personality result in similar conclusions. The study exposed 4 giant pandas at the Smithsonian National Zoological Park and Zoo Atlanta to 10 novel enrichment items and recorded their behavior. Keepers also rated each panda on 23 behavioral characteristics on a survey. The study obtained individual behavior profiles for each panda. Significant differences across individuals in both the novel enrichment trials and keeper surveys formed the basis for the profiles. These methods also provided some insight into differences between the sexes that—based on the natural history of giant pandas—are qualitatively similar to what would be expected. The study found some consistency between assessment methods. However, there is a need for further study to validate these measures in a larger sample of giant pandas.