Evaluations were made of >4000 reptiles maintained in captive situations
to assess numerous abnormal behaviours and any related environmental and
other influences. Certain behavioural restrictions warrant concern because
they result in physical injuries while others are primarily related to
inhibited ethological expression; this paper concentrates on the latter.
Hyperactivity, hypoactivity, persecution from other occupants, disposition-related
environmental temperature preference, interaction with transparent boundaries
and aggression are a few examples of abnormal behaviours resulting from
concept- and design-deficient artificial environments, and all may be
related to poor adaptability and environmentally induced trauma. It is
probable that the adaptability of reptiles to unnatural environments is
substantially compromised the fundamental biological principle of their
innate education system which results in greatly reduced susceptibility
to other educative influences.
The importance of a
sound knowledge of a species natural life style (wherever possible prior
to their acquisition) is to be emphasised if preventative action regarding
abnormal behaviour and evaluations of current problems are to be thoroughly
addressed. Very little work has been done on this subject probably because
natural behaviours of reptiles may present observational difficulties
and because "lower" vertebrates are often perceived as being
highly adaptable to captivity and thus warrant law priority.
Reptilian ethology in captivity has been neglected in comparison with,
for example, mammalian and avian research. Examinations of the effects
of artificial environments on reptile occupants, in particular those which
potentially have traumatic influences, are rarely scrutinised or described.
This is a disappointing situation because there are many opportunities
for study among herpetological collections internationally. The lack of
common investigation of this subject may be largely related to two main
areas. (1) Certain observational problems, for example, the relatively
uncomplicated social structures of many reptiles, mean that symptoms of
abnormal behaviour often do not manifest in a readily recognisable form
and as a consequence are frequently probably misinterpreted or remain
unnoticed. (2) There is a commonly held perception that reptiles, along
with other "lower" vertebrates, are highly adaptable to captivity.
A result of this lack of interest in the field is that reptilian ethology
under the influence of captivity is a relatively deficient subject in
terms of data and also with regard to general awareness of the concept.
The aims of this paper
are (a) to raise general consciousness on the subject of monitoring potentially
abnormal behaviours of captive reptiles and (b) to describe several behaviours
which probably form symptoms of environmentally encouraged modified
behaviours (EEMB) and environmentally induced trauma (EIT).
The ætiologies and implications (biological, ethical and managerial)
of EEMB and EIT are discussed together with the adaptability of reptiles
Practical studies were based on opportunistic and premeditated evaluations,
and comprised both pure observational examination and experimental work.
Observations were conducted of >4000 captive reptiles of four orders
(crocodilia, testudines, sauna, serpents) over 12 years at zoological
establishments internationally, as well as collections held privately
by herpetologists and personally. Regular general personal communications
with keepers of herpetofauna also offered valuable contributions. Experimental
work pursued the principle of providing typical enclosures and furnishings
for numerous species than making alterations to their concept and structure.
The aims of these adjustments were to refine environments so that abnormal
behaviours and related problems could be avoided or eliminated.
II: Findings and Discussion