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Sonic Enrichment Devices for Serval Cats

As Zoos increasingly engage patrons in conservation education new forms of visitor experience are trailed. This project explores the design of a visitor activated spatially variable sound-based enrichment system for Serval Cats, the smallest of the big cats.

Serval Cats hunt for small animals, birds and insects and prior to sighting prey determine the spatial location of potential prey through their highly sensitive hearing. Conventional strategies for sound based enrichment include sound-scape type approaches using fixed speakers and mechanically derived sounds through an animals physical interaction with an object. This project explores the use of a system of remote, networked and variable sound making devices that can be rapidly relocated (hidden, buried, and placed) and that can each transmit (or transduce through existing materials) in an enclosure a range of sounds with infinitely variable sequence and latency to encourage stalking, climbing and pouncing behaviours. To achieve this a series of low power and locally networked devices will be designed and prototyped that will provide opportunities for visitors to engage via a tangible interface in the variable scripting of sonic interactions to enrich the experience of Serval Cats. This is approach to enrichment design aims to generate a new low-cost, randomly activated (by way of visitor engagement) and infinitely programmable model for introducing sound as a key enrichment strategy.

Research Team
Liam Fennessy, Scott Mitchell & Joshua Batty
Research Collaborators
Alexander Radevski
Industry Partners
Zoo’s Victoria & Werribee Open Range Zoo
Date: 2015-2016
Status: Current