Projects & News:
Animal Health & Welfare
© San Diego Zoo
Cardiac Monitors Implanted in Six Zoo-Housed Great Apes With Progressive Heart Disease
September 30, 2022
Six zoo-housed great apes (two orangutans, two gorillas, and, in a world's first, two bonobos) with progressive heart disease were implanted with cardiac monitors. The veterinarian team at Columbus Zoo and Aquarium was joined by professionals from the Great Ape Heart Project and a cardiologist and an anesthesiologist that usually work with humans, to implant the monitors. By monitoring the cardiac activity of the animals, the zoo veterinarians can quickly intervene if any abnormalities are detected.
Older News (2016 - 2019)
Chester Zoo's Elephant Calf Makes Groundbreaking Recovery from Deadly Virus!
June 11, 2019
Thanks to the fantastic work of Chester Zoo's team and intensive research in partnership with other institutions, an elephant calf has recovered from a deadly virus that affects Asian elephants worldwide. New hope for the conservation of this endangered species!
EGZAC: Promoting Knowledge on Contraception in Captive Wildlife
January 02, 2018
Animal contraception is an important part of zoo management. The EAZA Group on Zoo Animal Contraception (EGZAC), based at Chester Zoo, is responsible for gathering knowledge on contraception in captive wildlife and producing contraceptive guidelines for individual European zoos.
Applied Science Helps Cleveland Mertroparks Zoo Keeping their Gorillas Happy!
November 10, 2017
Science is a vital part of a zoo's everyday routine... When one of the two Cleveland Metroparks Zoo's gorillas was left alone, after his companion died, zoo staff started monitoring his behaviour and physiology, to determine how he was coping with his new social status. When they found his welfare was compromised in this new social environment, the zoo brought in female companions for this male gorilla... A few months later, and after a normal introduction period, the gorillas are settling in well, and the male gorilla's welfare has again improved!
2017 AZA Ungulate TAGs Mixed-Species Manual
June 14, 2017
The "2017 AZA Ungulate TAGs Mixed-Species Manual" has just been released!
"This manual contains information from over 650 mixed-species ungulate exhibits at 131 institutions, including current successful exhibits, historical successful exhibits, and unsuccessful attempts at creating mixed species combinations. In addition to exhibits containing only ungulate species, we’ve also included information about non-ungulate species mixed with ungulates."
Photo: © Disney's Animal Kingdom
Comparison of 2 behavioral sampling methods to establish a time budget in a captive female cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) (Munita et al. 2016)
June 03, 2017
Abstract: Behavioral studies of wild animals kept in captivity provide useful information for conservation programs and animal welfare. These studies can also be time and resource consuming. For this reason, the aim of this study was to develop an ethogram for a semi-imprinted cheetah, during lactation and kept in captivity, and to compare 2 behavioral sampling methods to construct a time budget. During the first 34 days of the study, ad libitum sampling was used for describing observed behaviors, which allowed development of an ethogram. During the following 30 days, focal sampling with continuous recording and focal sampling with time sampling (instantaneous sampling) every 60 seconds, aided by 3 cameras, was applied to determine the behavioral time budget. An ethogram composed of 8 categories and 22 behaviors was developed. The cheetah allocated most of her time to resting while lying down with her cubs, the most frequent behavioral category assessed by both methods. Pearson's correlation was significant (P < 0.05) for 11 of the 22 behaviors, but only 2 presented a moderate correlation according to the r value (pacing and eating chicken). Allocoprophagia and pacing with cubs were behaviors described for the first time in cheetahs. These behaviors could be indicative of the inability to perform basic, normal behaviors and may represent a welfare concern. For future studies, the use of cameras located in previously detected areas of use with continuous recording could provide the best method for behavioral studies in captive felids.
Photo: © Lisbon Zoo
Wild Dolphins Show a More Compromised Health Than Their Captive Counterparts
May 03, 2017
New research, by Fair et al. (2017), shows that wild dolphins have a more chronically activated immune system than captive dolphins, which may reflect the environmental stressors they are under. More than half the wild dolphins in the two populations that were investigated seem to have a compromised health.
The Importance & Challenges of Animal Transfers Between Zoos, by Brookfield Zoo
March 11, 2017
In order to increase species diversity in zoos, support breeding programmes, improve genetic diversity in ex-situ populations and potentially help reintroduction programmes, animal transfers between zoos are necessary! Brookfield Zoo (Chicago Zoological Society) explains further the challenges and importance of these animal transfers.
Reid Park Zoos Saves Elderly Jaguar By Using Ground Breaking Blood Transfusions
December 16, 2016
Ground-breaking blood transfusions at Reid Park Zoo. After finding out the red-blood-cell count of their elderly jaguar was very low, the animal care team at this zoo decided to do something that is not been done before in these animals: a blood transfusion...
They have done it three times, all successful, and their determination to save this animal (who still has a good quality of life, according to them) shows the commitment of this zoo to the welfare of their animals.
New Husbandry Manual for the Iberian Lynx!
December 04, 2016
There is a new husbandry manual for the Iberian lynx (Lynx pardinus)! The four breeding centres for this species and Zoobotánico Jerez have developed this new document, which aims to further improve the way this species is kept in captivity.
A reminder this breeding and reintroduction programme (together with in-situ efforts) has been highly successful, increasing the population of this species in the wild from fewer than 100 to over 400, in the last ten years.
Monitoring Animal Welfare in Captivity - New Online System
August 12, 2016
The science team at Brookfield Zoo has created WelfareTrak®, an online system that allows to monitor the welfare of each individual of several species in captivity.
Every week, zoo keepers will complete surveys about each animal they are responsible for, answering to questions about their condition, activity, etc. This way, any significant changes in their welfare status can more easily be detected.
Artificial Insemination - Collecting Semen from a Male White Rhino
January 01, 2020
Staff at Zooparque itatiba has collected semen from their male white rhinoceros, with the objective of artificially inseminate three females and promote the breeding of this species at the zoo. Watch the video to see how they did it (in Portuguese).
Training Orangutans for Voluntary Blood Drawing
July 26, 2016
This report explains how a team of primate keepers from Cameron Park Zoo has successfully trained its orangutans for voluntary blood drawing. Using a sleeve and positive reinforcement, blood was successfully collected from the two male orangutans housed at this zoo, after three and four and a half months, respectively.
© Photo by Jerry Larson, Cameron Park Zoo
Orangutan Trained to be a Mother!
July 07, 2016
A Bornean orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus) at Smithsonian National Zoo, recently found pregnant, has been receiving special training for the last three years: she's learning to be a mother!
She has been taught to hold a plush, a bean-shaped pillow and an orangutan cuddly toy upright, carry them around and give them back to the keepers when requested. This training increases chances for unexperienced mothers to look after their infants properly.
Birds Affected By Oil Spill Rehabilitated at Auckland Zoo
June 30, 2016
An oil spill has occured at Lake Pupuke on the 22nd of June. The birds affected were transferred to Auckland Zoo for rehabilitation. The incident has now been contained but its full extent is yet to be confirmed. Find out more about this incident here.
Tasmanian Devil Gets Pacemaker at San Diego Zoo!
June 05, 2016
A male Tasmanian devil (Sarcophilus harrisii) at San Diego Zoo has got a pacemaker, after zoo veterinarians have found he had cardiac conduction disorder. He has now been released back into his exhibit, after recovering from this successful surgery.
This species, listed as "Endangered" in the IUCN Red List, is mainly threatened by Devil Facial Tumour Disease - a contagious, incurable, disease that only affects this species. This zoo has a disease-free population and it is partnered with the Save the Tasmanian Devil Programme.
Staff from Auckland Zoo Help to Monitor Wild Kākāpō Chicks
May 11, 2016
There was a record number of kākāpō (Strigops habroptila) chicks hatched in the wild, at the Anchor and Whenua Hou Islands. Dr. James Chatterton and Mikaylie Wilson, vet manager and vet nurse at Auckland Zoo, respectively, have been helping the kākāpō Recovery Team to monitor, health-check and care for chicks at nest sites.
"If chicks can get through their first two to three weeks of life, they'll then be reared successfully by their mum. So intensive monitoring of the chicks, especially during this period, allows intervention when necessary, which is critical to their survival," says Dr. Chatterton.
This species, endemic from New Zealand, is critically endangered but conservation efforts are causing a current increase in its population trend (IUCN Red List).
Ultrasound Exams Aid Frog Breeding Programmes
April 28, 2016
Detroit Zoo is involved in multiple captive breeding programmes for threatened amphibians. Special breeding areas are set within the zoo, where temperature, water, humidity and light are adjusted for better results. However, some animals are more challenging to breed in captivity and need to be administered with specific hormones. This has been a success in the breeding programmes of Wyoming toads (Anaxyrus baxteri) and Puerto Rican Crested toads (Peltophryne lemur), listed as "Extinct in the Wild" and "Critically Endangered", respectively (IUCN Red List).
Veterinary staff at this zoo is now using a high frequency ultrasound probe to monitor the ovaries and follicles in the females' reproductive system, so the effects of the husbandry methods and administered hormones can be more easily controlled. This is a step further in the reproduction of endangered species in captivity.
Internal Parasites in Captive Animals: Maybe not as bad as we think
April 06, 2016
Dr. Hamish Spencer, a geneticist at the University of Otago, believes some parasites can be beneficial for their hosts. Previous research shows that people infected with internal parasites may suffer less of arthritis and other diseases, as exposure to parasites moderates the immune system - stopping it from attacking beneficial bacteria within our body.
Captive animals are often treated for internal parasites, which, according to Dr. Spencer, may be a mistake, especially if there are plans to reintroduce those animals into the wild.
Some parasites can only be found in one species, or closely-related species. Deparasiting a species may result in the extiction of those parasites. Colpocephalum californici, a feather louse, was driven to extinction when all Californian condors were brought to captivity and deparasited.
Two captive kakapos (Strigops habroptila), critically endangered, flightless birds from New Zealand, were dewormed after they were found to be infected with tapeworms. Although this was done with the best interest of the birds in mind, Dr. Spencer thinks that could have been a mistake, as they could have driven a parasitic species to extinction.
We should, according to Dr. Spencer, stop medicating captive animals without any restrictions, as this may weaken their immune system and jeopardise their chances of survival, if they are ever reintroduced to the wild.
Orphan Cheetah Cub Joins Cincinnati Zoo's Cubs!
April 05, 2016
An orphane male cheetah cub, who was not being cared for by his mother, has been transferred from Wildlife Safari to Cincinnati Zoo, where he will join the four cheetah cubs born by c-section last month. Both zoos agreed it would be beneficial for the cub to join the other four at Cincinnati Zoo, as socialization with conspecifics is very important at this age.
As this cub is 12 days older and bigger than the other cubs, who are still receiving critical care, they won't be introduced for one or two weeks.
Operant Conditioning of Blacktip Reef Sharks at Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo
March 30, 2016
Blacktip reef sharks at Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium are being trained to go into a especially designed shark stretcher, so they can be moved, as stress-free as possible, to another exhibit. Zoo staff have been using operant conditioning to train these animals.
Injured Wild Sea Turtles Receive Care at Houston Zoo
March 27, 2016
Staff at Houston Zoo have provided care to injured wild sea turtles, brought there by their partners National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
After receiving treatment at the zoo, these turtles will be rehabilitated at NOAA's sea turtle barn before they are released back into the wild.
Chester Zoo: Figthing against the Elephant endotheliotropic herpesvirus (EEHV)
March 27, 2016
The EEHV is a deadly virus and affects young elephants at weaning age. In some elephants, the virus stays dormant and never develops into disease - but in others, it does, and only 20 % of them survive.
EEHV affects captive and wild elephants, which is another threat to this already endangered species. Chester Zoo has been funding research on this virus for years but researchers have, so far, failed to culture it in the lab, which is fundamental to develop a vaccine.
Dog becomes surrogate parent to cheetah cubs at Cincinnati Zoo!
March 22, 2016
The cheetah cubs born at Cincinnati Zoo, on the 8th of March, are still receiving critical care from zoo staff. Their mother has died, after failing to recover from the C-section that saved the cubs.
The five cubs, 3 boys and 2 girls, are being fed every 3 hours, by zoo staff, who also check their weight regularly.
The nursery dog has now become a surrogate parent, allowing the cubs to climb on him, which makes them exercise and keep their digestive system moving. When they grow up, the same dog will work as a teacher/role model - in the past, he has taught a takin to jump on rocks and another cheetah cub to distinguish between a playful bite and the start of a fight.
Acupuncture: improving the lives of elderly zoo animals!
March 14, 2016
Dr Beth Bicknese, Senior veterinarian at San Diego Zoo, has seen how this technique has improved the lives of some of their elderly animals, by blocking chronic pain signals. Acunpuncture might be a crucial solution to ensure a comfortable life for zoo animals, who are now having longer lives due to improved animal management and husbandry.
Connecticut's Beardsley Zoo: Using a stuffed toy to weigh a baby Giant anteater.
March 09, 2016
This baby Giant Anteater, at Connecticut's Beardsley Zoo, needs to have its weight checked everyday, to ensure it is growing healthily. The zoo staff uses a stuffed toy to help the young Anteater going onto the scales. An interesting idea to reduce stress to the animal when performing this important check up.
National Zoo: Feeding two fennec fox kits
March 08, 2016
Even though it is usually better when animals are raised by their own parents, zoo staff occasionally have to step in, when parents fail to look after their offspring. Staff at Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute is hand rearing two fennec fox kits, as their mother has an history of failure at raising her offspring. Zoo staff has been providing 24/7 care for these kits.
This species is classified as "Least Concern" in the IUCN Red List, but this species is kept in captivity due to its potential for educational programmes, as it has very obvious adaptations to life in the desert: oversized ears to regulate body temperature and thick fur on the soles of their feet to protect them from the hot sands in the desert.
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