Wildlife Conservation

Scientific Papers

Zoo Conservation & Research

What’s new from the zoo? An analysis of ten years of zoo-themed research output (Rose et al., 2019)

November 04, 2019

Abstract: The modern zoo’s roles command empirical enquiry to determine the effectiveness of zoos locally and globally. Ten years ago, published work identified the need for empirical research on a diverse range of species beyond charismatic zoo megafauna. We review zoo-based research published in the decade since this original recommendation. We collectively evaluate zoo-themed research papers from those working in zoos and those external to zoos but studying zoo-housed animals. By systematically searching Web of Science© for zoo-based research and performing inductive content analysis to code year, journal, study animal’s taxonomic classification, and research aims and outputs we evaluate trends in zoo-themed research, contrasted with trends in species holding. Significantly more birds and fish are kept compared to mammals, reptiles and amphibians, but mammals are consistently the primary research focus. Whilst output generally rises, only for birds is a steady increase in publications apparent. Husbandry evaluation is a major aim/output, but papers on pure biology, cognition and health also feature. Most publications lead to “specific advancement of knowledge” including validation of methodologies. We show that: (1) trends in species holdings are unrelated to trends in publication; (2) zoo-themed research makes meaningful contributions to science; (3) zoo researchers should diversify their aim/output categories and chosen study species to close the persisting research gaps that we have identified. Finally, we discuss our findings in the context of evident species biases within research outputs across the broader fields of zoology, conservation and ecology.

The Need for a Convergence of Agricultural/Laboratory and Zoo-based Approaches to Animal Welfare (Ward & Hosey, 2019)

October 19, 2019

Abstract: Advances in animal welfare science have led to a high number of studies published for farm, laboratory and zoo animals, with a huge breadth of innovative topic areas and methodologies. This paper investigates the different approaches used to undertake welfare research in farm, laboratory and zoo animals due to the variety of constraints that each group brings. We also set recommendations to how groups can support each other in moving forwards to reduce animal suffering and promote a life worth living, a goal that all parties aim to achieve. We propose that researchers develop more collaborations across species, in particular to focus on the applied component of animal welfare and utilizing positive welfare indicators; facilitate knowledge transfer and share good practice worldwide; and accept small n based studies that can still be scientifically robust and provide individual-based steps into advances in our knowledge. Ultimately, we need to be progressing animal welfare science to a point beyond legislative needs, and ensure that “high animal welfare” becomes an additional mission statement for all animal-based industries.

Photo credit: Reid Park Zoo

Research on reproduction is essential for captive breeding of endangered carnivore species (Jewgenow et al. 2016)

June 08, 2019

Abstract: Assisted reproductive technology (ART) has great potential for conservation, but its successful application in captive breeding programmes of endangered species is often compromised by limited background on species' biology. Although carnivore species benefit from knowledge obtained in domesticated species (dogs, cats and ferrets), the focus of research is different. In pet animals, research in reproduction has mainly been focused on ovarian function and contraception, although substantial progress has also been made in the field of in vitro embryo production, transgenic embryos and cloning to aid relevant medical models. In endangered species, however, research should focus on characterizing reproductive traits (cyclicity and seasonality) to unravel species‐specific endocrine principles of reproduction physiology. Based on this knowledge, it is crucial to enhance the ability to manipulate female reproductive cycles, especially those of embryo recipients. Furthermore, research conducted on molecular and cellular mechanisms of gamete and embryo development, as well as on cryopreservation protocols of gametes and embryos, is required for successful implementation of advanced ART to wild carnivores. This review will provide a summary on the state of the art with focus on ART contributing to conservation breeding of endangered carnivores.

Photo credit: Lynx ex-situ

BOOK: Scientific Foundations of Zoos and Aquariums: Their Role in Conservation and Research (Kaufman et al. 2019)

April 07, 2019

Summary: In the modern era, zoos and aquariums fight species extinction, educate communities, and advance learning of animal behaviour. Scientific Foundations of Zoos and Aquariums features first person stories and scientific reviews to explore ground-breaking projects run by these institutions. Large-scale conservation initiatives that benefit multiple species are detailed in the first section, including critical habitat protection, evidence-based techniques to grow animal populations and the design of community education projects. The second section documents how zoos use science to improve the health and welfare of animals in captivity and make difficult management decisions. The section on saving species includes personal tales of efforts to preserve wild populations through rehabilitation, captive breeding, reintroduction, and public outreach. The concluding section details scientific discoveries about animals that would have been impossible without the support of zoos and aquariums. Scientific Foundations of Zoos and Aquariums is for animal scientists, zoo professionals, educators and researchers worldwide, as well as students of zookeeping and conservation.

What Keeps Me up at Night As a Zoo‐Based Conservation Biologist (Faust, 2019)

January 21, 2019

Abstract: Hopefully, I am asleep at three in the morning. But on those nights when I am not, in addition to mentally juggling details of home life and inbox, I wrestle with the larger challenges my institution faces. The Ark and Beyond expertly highlights many of these challenges, which are the primary work of modern zoos and aquariums. They include as follows: a devastating, rapid loss of biodiversity, which needs science‐based conservation solutions. A concern for the long‐term health of the animal populations we care for in zoos and aquariums given the reality that we may not have enough space or genetic founders to successfully sustain them for 100 years or beyond. A need to continue to improve the care and well‐being of individual animals given the unique responsibility of holding them in our care. The puzzle of how to truly engage visitors to take actions that will impact humanity's capacity to coexist with wildlife. A frustration that we do not know enough—have not yet done the science—to inform all our decisions. And the financial juggling act to balance these mission‐based priorities, while also feeding and housing our animals, maintaining and improving facility infrastructure, and supporting the passionate, dedicated staff who are instrumental to success. In The Ark and Beyond, the authors give a contemporary and honest summary of the challenges currently confronting the zoo and aquarium industry.

Photo: Lincoln Park Zoo

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