Animal Welfare

Scientific Papers

© Rory Harper

Activity budget of zoo-housed Dolichotis patagonum mates (Baechli et al., 2021)

January 2021

A new study in JZAR looked into the activity budgets of zoo-housed Patagonian maras:

"Resting", "Feeding" & "Alert" were the most frequent behaviours;

High behavioural synchrony between mates;

Available data from wild individuals suggested a positive behavioural activity in these captive individuals.


Photo credit:

Zoo soundscape: Daily variation of low‐to‐high‐frequency sounds (Pelletier et al., 2020)

July 2020

Noise at the zoo is a concern for animal welfare. Study in Zoo Biology assessed the soundscape (infrasounds and ultrasounds) of Zoo de Granby:

Sound levels increased during the day & with visitors present;

Sound levels generally not problematic for animal welfare;

Some locations showed high sound levels (e.g. indoor areas & touristic features);

Mitigation actions proposed.

Contextual impacts on individual and synchronous breathing rate variations in three captive odontocete groups (Serres et al., 2020)

November 2020

A study investigated individual & synchronous breathing rate variations in three captive cetacean species:

Highest rates during energetic & social behaviours;

Higher rates during unusual events;

Enrichment: lower individual but higher synchronous rates;

Higher rates for ONE of the species in presence of public & during social separation;

Breathing rates are a useful parameter BUT should be interpreted carefully & integrated with other indicators.


Photo credit: Baiji Dolphinarium

The visitor effect in zoo-housed apes: the variable effect on behaviour of visitor number and noise (Hashmi & Sullivan, 2020)

October 2020

The visitor effects on zoo-housed apes (gorillas, chimpanzees and gibbons) were investigated in a study in JZAR:

✔ Noise levels increased with visitor numbers;

✔ Some behavioural changes suggested a potential negative effect on welfare;

✔ Intra- and inter-specific differences in reactions to the public;

✔ The visitor effect is complex and influenced by multiple factors.


Photo credit: Blackpool Zoo

Longitudinal Improvements in Zoo-Housed Elephant Welfare: A Case Study at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo
(Finch et al., 2020)

November 2020

New study assessed the welfare improvements of the Asian elephants at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo, using data from their species-specific behavioural monitoring programme. Some of their findings include:
Species-appropriate levels of feeding;
Low levels of stereotypic behaviours;
Rare agonistic behaviour between group members;
Positive social associations & interactions between group members.

Specialised for the Swamp, Catered for in Captivity? A Cross-Institutional Evaluation of Captive Husbandry for Two Species of Lechwe (Rose & Rowden, 2020)

October 2020

There is a new published paper on zoo husbandry practices in lechwe - a wetlands social antelope that is understudied in captivity:
Similar male:female ratios in captive and wild herds;
Enclosures usually included wetland areas, which were rarely managed;
Vegetation cover was limited;
Similar diets between zoos, but different from guidelines;
Abnormal behaviours reported but causes not identified.


Photo credit: San Diego Zoo

The 2020 Five Domains Model: Including Human–Animal Interactions in Assessments of Animal Welfare (Mellor et al., 2020)

October 2020

The Five Domains Model of animal welfare assessment has just been updated in a new paper:
Five Domains: (1) Nutrition, (2) Physical Environment, (3) Health, (4) Behavioural Interactions, (5) Mental State;
Update adds human-animal interactions to the model;
Applicable to all animal caretakers, including zoo keepers, researchers & veterinary staff!

The Use of a Species-Specific Health and Welfare Assessment Tool for the Giant Pacific Octopus, Enteroctopus dofleini (Holst & Miller-Morgan, 2020)

September 2020

A new study has proposed a health & welfare assessment tool for the Giant Pacific octopus:

 Categories assessed: external appearance, behaviour & signs of stress and disease;

 Severity score system;

 Upward trend in score identified within 3-4 weeks of death - predictor?


Photo credit: Aquarium of the Bay

Seasonal and Daily Activity of Two Zoo-Housed Grizzly Bears (Ursus arctos horribilis)

August 2020

New study investigated activity patterns in two zoo-housed grizzly bears:
Most inactivity recorded in winter;
Stereotypies and general activity emerged in spring and summer;
Stereotypies more frequent in the morning.

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