Conservation & Research

Scientific Papers


Problematic Animals in the Zoo: The Issue of Charismatic Megafauna (Hosey et al., 2020)

July 14, 2020

Zoos worldwide are visited by great numbers of people, and many of these visitors prefer to see large, rare mammals, the so-called charismatic megafauna. Zoos and the researchers who use them also appear to prioritise these species, as evidenced by the number of scientific publications which investigate the welfare of charismatic rather than non-charismatic species. However, the charismatic animals also attract more welfare-related concern from animal activist groups and the media than the non-charismatics. To this extent the charismatics could be regarded as problematic animals in the zoo. In this chapter, we compare three charismatic taxa (elephants, great apes and cetaceans) with three closely matched non-charismatic taxa (tapirs, gibbons and manatees) from the point of view of how frequently they are portrayed in welfare-related stories in the media, how much scientific research is undertaken on their welfare and how many of them are housed in zoos. Undoubtedly, from these perspectives the charismatics receive more attention than the non-charismatics. However, there is also evidence that their popularity helps zoos achieve their conservation mission, both by increasing funding available for field conservation and by contributing towards education and awareness raising of conservation issues. Nevertheless, the non-charismatics are equally deserving of attention, and more work needs to be done on their welfare.

Photo credit: Colchester Zoo

The contributions of EAZA zoos and aquariums to peer-reviewed scientific research (Hvilsom et al., 2020)

May 04, 2020

Abstract: Zoos have tremendous potential and responsibility to conduct research, which is a key part of the European Association of Zoos and Aquariums’s (EAZA) Code of Ethics. Yet, the contributions of EAZA institutions to the peer-reviewed literature has never been quantified. By conducting an exhaustive Web of Science (WoS) database search, we quantified the peer-reviewed research contribution from 293 EAZA Members in the period 1998-2018. A total of 3345 peer-reviewed manuscripts were published in the 21-year period. The research output increased over time, with more than a threefold increase during the last decade. More than two thirds of all EAZA Member institutions published during the time period, but contributions were markedly skewed, with only seven institutions responsible for more than 100 publications each, thus contributing 37 % of the total output. The top three research areas were zoology, veterinary sciences, and environmental sciences and ecology, with the two former attributing to twice as many publications as the latter.

Image: Copenhagen Zoo

Book Chapter: Zoo engagement in pangolin conservation: contributions, opportunities, challenges, and the way forward (Parker & Luz, 2020)

January 08, 2020

Abstract: This chapter discusses contributions that zoos have made to pangolin conservation, opportunities for increased zoo engagement in pangolin conservation, and the challenges and risks that impede those opportunities. Discussions include what defines a “conservation zoo” and the contributions of international zoo networks to wildlife conservation. Case studies of zoo-supported conservation programs that secured species from extinction are provided. Challenges, such as unscrupulous entities that launder wildlife through legal mechanisms, and conflict among stakeholders are examined. Next steps for pangolin conservation planning are recommended, such as following the IUCN Species Survival Commission Guidelines on the Use of Ex situ Management for Species Conservation. Applying these Guidelines under the framework of the One Plan Approach can ensure decisions about ex situ management activities with pangolins are made collectively by all of the important stakeholders to support conservation goals. Suggested ways that zoos can make a positive difference for pangolins are offered.

Photo credit: ZSL

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

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