Animal Welfare

Scientific Papers

Red Ibis

© Rory Harper

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DNA Damage as a Potential Non-Invasive Indicator of Welfare: A Preliminary Study in Zoo-Housed Grizzly Bears (Ursus arctos horribilis(Fuller, Hamilton & Allard, 2021)

June 2021

A new paper in JZBG investigated the applications of DNA damage as an indicator of animal welfare in three zoo-housed grizzly bears:

DNA damage significantly increased with adrenal activity (faecal glucocorticoid metabolites);

Relationship between DNA damage and social affiliative behaviours varied between individuals;

Potential for DNA damage to be used in animal welfare assessments, but further research & validation required.

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Photo credit: Detroit Zoo

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Estimates of locomotion in Asian elephants Elephas maximus using video monitoring at Dublin Zoo, Ireland (Brady et al., 2021)

April 2021

A study in JZAR looked into behaviour & locomotion of the Asian elephants at Dublin Zoo, using CCTV footage:

Mean daily distance travelled (9.35 km/day) comparable to wild individuals (5-10 km/day);

50% of time spent foraging & 18% spent moving;

Locomotion & behaviour in these elephants closer to wild than previous zoo studies;

CCTV footage offers opportunities for behavioural research.

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Photo credit: Dublin Zoo

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Activity, Social Relationships, and Maternal Care in a Bottlenose Dolphin Group under Professional Cares (Lauderdale & Miller, 2021)

May 2021

A study in in JZBG looked into social relationships and maternal care in zoo-housed bottlenose dolphins:

Affiliative behaviours were dominant;

Strong mother-calf associations through 2nd and 3rd years of life;

Some individuals kept preferred associations, while others changed;

No large reductions in associations observed - strong relationships between individuals.

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A System for Monitoring Acoustics to Supplement an Animal Welfare Plan for Bottlenose Dolphins (Jones et al., 2021)

April 2021

A study in JZBG described the application of an acoustic monitoring system for captive bottlenose dolphins:

Software automatically compares acoustic behaviour of dolphins with past records;

Changes in acoustic behaviour can be detected - health & welfare problems?

Can help identifying problematic acoustic sources for the dolphins;

Applications to welfare monitoring of dolphins in zoos & aquariums.

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Influences of Rearing Environment on Behaviour and Welfare of Captive Chilean Flamingos: A Case Study on Foster-Reared and Parent-Reared Birds(Kidd & Rose, 2021)

April 2021

How does rearing environment affect the behaviour of captive Chilean flamingos? A new study in JZBG compared foster-reared and parent-reared chicks:

Foster-reared chicks: less time feeding, fewer preferred associations and more likely to occupy nesting area;

Social bonds were equally strong and durable in both foster-reared & parent-reared chicks;

Cross-fostering has limited impacts on behavioural and social development.

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Evaluating the Effect of Visitor Presence on Nile Crocodile (Crocodylus niloticus) Behavior (Riley et al., 2021)

March 2021

A study in JZBG looked into visitor effects on zoo-housed Nile crocodiles:

Behaviour was significantly affected by time of day, temperature & month;

Visitor effects on behaviour were found to be small/neutral.

Environmental variables should be considered when assessing behaviour and welfare in zoo-housed reptiles.

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Photo credit: David R. Tribble (Nile crocodiles at Disney's Animal Kingdom).

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Personality of killer whales (Orcinus orca) is related to welfare and subjective well-being (Úbeda et al., 2021)

March 2021

A paper in Applied Animal Behaviour Science investigated whether questionnaires can be used to reliably assess and monitor the welfare of captive killer whales:

Results validated questionnaires as an accurate welfare assessment tool for captive orcas;

High correlation between personality, welfare & subjective well-being;

Findings were similar to previous research on primates.

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Photo credit: Loro Parque

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Assessing the behaviour, welfare and husbandry of mouse deer (Tragulus spp.) in European zoos (Lemos de Figueiredo et al., 2021)

March 2021

A study in Applied Animal Behaviour Science, authored by our very own Ricardo, investigated what husbandry & management practices were affecting mouse deer breeding & behaviour in European zoos:

Vegetation cover positively affected breeding, activity & natural behaviours;

Water ponds and enrichment also had positive effects on activity & natural behaviours;

Close proximity between males and females negatively impacted breeding;

Diet and temperature they are housed in is likely suboptimal and requires further research;

Mouse deer benefit from complex enclosures, with ample vegetation, natural features and opportunities to avoid conspecifics.

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Photo credit: Copenhagen Zoo

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Effects of Nearby Construction Work on the Behavior of Asiatic Lions (Panthera leo persica) (Williams et al., 2021).

March 2021

Research in  JZBG looked into the effects of construction work on the behaviour of zoo-housed lions:

During construction: increased pacing (male), decreased resting (all three lions);

Sound & ground vibrations more likely to have been the stressors;

No long-term effects - behavioural changes not detected one year later;

Mitigation measures suggested.

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Photo credit: Chester Zoo

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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.

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Photo credit: Hat.net

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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.

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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.

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Photo credit: Baiji Dolphinarium

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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.

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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.

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Photo credit: San Diego Zoo

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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!

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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?

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Photo credit: Aquarium of the Bay

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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.