The American Association for Laboratory Animal Enrichment (AALAE) is an association dedicated to the advancement of animal enrichment within the laboratory sciences. We are comprised of the top professionals within the research community that aim to provide resources to the lab animal community regarding enrichment and behavior management. Resources include educational materials, webinars, annual conferences, as well as roundtable sessions with the lab animal community.
Behaviors such as circling, excessive flipping, bar biting, and self biting, has largely been due to stress and boredom in an animal’s captive environment. Utilizing enrichment practices and behavior management techniques have proven decrease these behaviors.
Enrichment such as foraging devices for monkeys, apple balls for pigs, and nesting material for mice, encourage natural behaviors like rooting, foraging, and nest building. These enrichment items encourage behaviors seen in the wild.
Regularly scheduled veterinary, research, and husbandry procedures such as administering injections, measuring weights, performing health checks, and even moving animals from a dirty cage to a clean cage can be stressful to laboratory animals, and the lab animal personnel. Part of sustaining a successful enrichment/behavior management program is to implement a training program so animals are not stressed while undergoing these procedures. Training animals via positive reinforcement training allows the animals to voluntarily cooperate with the lab animal personnel when performing a procedure.
Monkeys like rhesus macaques forage around 70% of the day in the wild. Enrichment items such a wheat grass, plants, icees, foraging devices, or paper boxes filled with treats is the perfect enrichment for monkeys to exhibit this behavior.
Pigs exhibit rooting behavior. Enrichment items such as icees, round solid balls, paper boxes filled with treats, and pumpkins smeared with honey allow these animals to exhibit this natural behavior.
Sheep are a gregarious species that prefer hay as enrichment. Providing hay in structural enrichment items such as nets, blue balls, and apple balls add variety to methods of enrichment distribution.
Rodents are a prey species that hide when threatened by a predator. Providing environmental enrichment such a nesting material gives them the ability to build complex nests. Also, providing an igloo gives them the ability to hide from potential aggressors, while also providing shelter for pups.
Nesting material is a huge way for rats and mice to thermoregulate. These hay balls take it a little bit further, by using hay and nesting material to create a ball for rats to put these young in, to sleep, and to hide from predators.