Twenty years of the tiger feeding pole: review and recommendations
Kitchener, Andrew C
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The tiger feeding pole was developed at Glasgow Zoo, UK, more than 20 years ago as a feeding-enrichment device. Since then the adoption of the feeding pole by other zoos for Tigers Panthera tigris and other cats has been slow and sporadic until recent years when many zoos in the UK have begun to use this device. In this paper we review the basis for and the development of the feeding pole as a feeding-enrichment tool, including its stimulation of simulated hunting behaviours, and benefits to health and welfare. A survey of 19 zoos (mostly based in the UK) found that 79% use or have used feeding poles usually about once per week at heights of 3â€“6 m. We know of no confirmed reports of serious injuries or deaths of cats using feeding poles. A comparison of the skeletons of tigers found that feeding-pole-using tigers had a mean arthrosis score that is four times less than that of tigers that did not use them, providing a positive indicator of the health benefit of the use of this enrichment device. Based on previous experience we provide a refined set of recommendations for the safe use of feeding poles for cats, but recognize that providing physical and mental challenges to animals in zoos carries some minor risks that animals are well able to cope with. We discuss the possible next steps in feeding enrichment, which may include a holistic approach that considers the need to manage predators alongside prey to allow for mutual visual and olfactory enrichments.