Auckland Zoo

Animal Health

Scientific Papers

© Rory Harper

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Development of an image-based body condition score for giraffes Giraffa camelopardalis and a comparison of zoo-housed and free-ranging individuals (Clavadetscher et al., 2021)

August 2021

An image-based Body Condition Score (BCS) has been developed for giraffes and published in JZAR:
BCS developed for both shoulder & hip areas (rib area not useful for BCS);
Score applied & validated in both free-ranging & zoo-housed giraffes;
Low scores should be avoided in zoo-housed giraffes but no evidence that high scores are detrimental;
On average, higher scores in zoo-housed animals improvements in zoo diets & less restrictions than in the wild.

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Sex‐specific actuarial and reproductive senescence in zoo‐housed tiger (Panthera tigris): The importance of sub‐species for conservation (Tidière et al., 2021)

April 2021

A study in Zoo Biology looked into data from the International Tiger Studbook to investigate reproductive parameters and survival in the captive tiger population:

Low adult mortality & progressive increase of mortality rates after 10 years of age (longevity: 19 years).

Females: highest reproductive parameters (litter size and cub survival) when 7-9 years old;

Differences found between sub-species, highlighting the importance of considering them separately.

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Adiposity, reproductive and metabolic health, and activity levels in zoo Asian elephant (Elephas maximus) (Chusyd et al., 2021)

January 2021

New research looked into body fat, metabolism and activity levels of Asian elephants in nine North American zoos:

Higher body fat not associated with abnormal reproductive cycles;

Walking rates similar to those of wild individuals;

Higher insulin levels in individuals with higher body fat;

Threshold for "obesity" in this species was attempted but further research required;

Obesity may not be such a problem in this species but may cause metabolic perturbations.


Photo credit: Smithsonian's National Zoo

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Quantification and risk factor analysis of elephant endotheliotropic herpesvirus-haemorrhagic disease fatalities in Asian elephants (Elephas maximus) in Europe (1985-2017) (Perrin et al., 2021)

January 2021

The endotheliotropic herpesvirus-haemorrhagic disease (EEHV-HD) is a major cause of death in captive Asian elephants and increasingly recognised in their wild counterparts as well. A risk factor analysis of this disease in Europe (1985-2017) found the following:

EEHV-HD accounted for 57% of Asian elephant deaths;

Median age of EEHV-HD deaths: 2.6 years;

Similar risk for ;

Only significant risk factor identified was a previous EEHV-HD death in the institution;

Exposure to new elephants was not a significant risk factor.


Photo credit: Copenhagen Zoo

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Monitoring great ape heart health through innovative electrocardiogram technology: Training methodologies and welfare implications (Cloutier Barbour et al., 2020)

September 2020

Heart disease is a major cause of mortality in zoo-housed great apes. A study in Zoo Biology introduced a electrocardiogram technology that facilitates the monitoring of great ape heart health:
Kardiamobile allows for voluntary, instant, reliable & economic electrocardiogram readings;
Operant conditioning training guidelines provided;
System generates evidence to inform management regarding great ape heart health.

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A Retrospective Study of Macropod Progressive Periodontal Disease (“Lumpy Jaw”) in Captive Macropods across Australia and Europe: Using Data from the Past to Inform Future Macropod Management (Rendle et al., 2020)

October 2020

New research looked into "lumpy jaw" disease in captive macropods:
High mortality (62.5% for Australian & European institutions);
Risk of developing the disease increased with age;
Different incidence rates & risk of infection between institutions and geographic regions;
Recommendations to reduce disease risk were provided.


Photo credit: Perth Zoo