Scientific Papers


© Rory Harper

Change in stingray behaviour and social networks in response to the scheduling of husbandry events (Farmer et al., 2019)

November 16, 2019

Abstract: Husbandry tasks are often carried out at the same time and in the same manner every day, resulting in the potential for them to become predictable to animals. An unpublished study conducted on a mixed species enclosure of blue-spotted ribbontail rays (Taeniura lymma) and blue-spotted maskrays (Neotrygon kuhlii), reported increased intra and interspecies aggression preceding training sessions that took place at a fixed time. This study monitored the behavioural responses of the rays to training events, when training was carried out on either a predictable or an unpredictable schedule. Overall, incidences of aggression on days when training occurred were lower than when no training took place; however, aggression rates varied according to the schedules of training and group composition. Increased activity levels before a training session suggest anticipation of this event. Comparison of social networks for aggressive interactions between conditions showed species and individual differences in aggression. However, these differences may have been in response to a change in social composition of the group in the middle of the study and not due to differences in study conditions. This study will inform management practice by highlighting the importance of husbandry regimes on animal behaviour.

Photo: Living Coasts

A Review of Welfare Assessment Methods in Reptiles, and Preliminary Application of the Welfare Quality® Protocol to the Pygmy Blue-Tongue Skink, Tiliqua adelaidensis, Using Animal-Based Measures (Benn et al., 2019)

October 11, 2019

Abstract: Reptiles are held at wildlife parks and zoos for display and conservation breeding programs and are increasingly being kept as pets. Reliable indicators of welfare for reptiles need to be identified. Current guidelines for the captive management of reptiles utilize resource-based, rather than animal-based indicators; the latter being a more direct reflection of affective state. In this paper we review the literature on welfare assessment methods in reptiles with a focus on animal-based measures. We conclude that, whilst a number of physiological and behavioral indicators of welfare have been applied in reptiles, there is need for further validation of these methods across the diversity of species within the Class. Methods of positive welfare state assessment are comparatively understudied and need elucidation. Finally, we examine some widely-used welfare assessment tools in mammals and explore the application of the Welfare Quality® Protocol to the endangered pygmy blue-tongue skink, Tiliqua adelaidensis. We propose that this framework can form the basis for the development of taxon-specific tools with consideration of species-specific biology.

Photo credit: Zoos South Australia

Monitoring the Behavior and Habitat Use of Animals to Enhance Welfare using the ZooMonitor App (Wark et al., 2019)

October 07, 2019

Abstract: Regular monitoring of the behavior, habitat use, and appearance of animals can provide valuable insight into their welfare. These ongoing data can help identify meaningful trends that can be acted upon to enhance welfare, and potentially reveal individual preferences and patterns that can facilitate care tailored to the individual. To provide a low cost, flexible, user-friendly tool for staff to conduct systematic behavioral monitoring, Lincoln Park Zoo, with development support from Zier Niemann Consulting, created the ZooMonitor app. With ZooMonitor, users can record the behavior and habitat use of animals using standardized animal behavior recording methods as well as log individual characteristics such as body condition or coat/feather quality. These data can be recorded using computers or tablet devices, and data are uploaded to a cloud server where the user can conduct automated reliability tests to check observer consistency and generate built-in reports such as activity budgets and heat maps showing how animals use their available space. To demonstrate the use of ZooMonitor in an ongoing monitoring program, two case studies from Lincoln Park Zoo are presented: 1) promoting increased foraging and broader habitat use of pygmy hippos (Choeropsis liberiensis); and 2) tracking feather condition changes in a flock of domestic chickens (Gallus gallus). These examples highlight the importance of standardized monitoring and use of digital tools like ZooMonitor to enable science-based husbandry practices and promote positive welfare for animals in human care.

Photo credit: Lincoln Park Zoo

The Andean bear alopecia syndrome may be caused by social housing (Van Horn et al., 2019)

September 28, 2019

Abstract: The Andean bear alopecia syndrome is a progressive and chronic condition documented in ex situ populations. Recent advances focus on treating symptoms, not preventing future cases. We therefore explored the epidemiology of this syndrome through an analysis of husbandry and veterinary conditions of 63 Andean bears (26M:37F) housed in North and South American zoos and other ex situ circumstances. We had the most complete information for the North American population and found that 29% of females (n = 24) were affected. No males (n = 26) were affected. An analysis of generalized linear models indicated that three models were competitive in describing the occurrence of the condition (i.e., ΔAICc  ≤ 2): the model including only the individual's sex (χ2 = 13.41, df = 1, p < .001), the model including both individual sex and social housing status (χ2 = 1.36, df = 2, p < .001), and the model including both individual sex and the expression of stereotypical behaviors (χ2 = 13.82, df = 2, p = .001). Stereotypical behaviors were common among both males (50%, n = 26) and females (51.9%, n = 27) whether or not they were affected, but the syndrome was seen only in females who had been socially housed. Therefore, we suggest that the Andean bear alopecia syndrome is a symptomatic response to the long‐term social housing of bears that would otherwise not live socially. To prevent new cases, we recommend that female Andean bears be housed with adult conspecifics only when females choose to cohabitate.

Photo credit: San Diego Zoo

Sleep‐related behaviors in zoo‐housed giraffes (Giraffa camelopardalis reticulata): Basic characteristics and effects of season and parturition (Takagi et al., 2019)

September 22, 2019

Abstract: Despite increasing interest in the behavior of zoo animals, studies of nocturnal behavior of zoo animals are limited. In this study, we investigated the relationship between parturition, season, and the sleep‐related behaviors in captive reticulated giraffes to better understand the nocturnal life in giraffes. The subjects were two adult reticulated giraffes living in Kyoto City Zoo, Japan. Observations were made via an infrared camera that was mounted in the indoor enclosure between June 2007 and August 2009. We analyzed video clips that were recorded between 16:30 and 09:00 the next morning, over a total of 199 days. Sleep‐related behaviors were classified into two categories based on the posture of the giraffes; recumbent posture and paradoxical sleep. We also recorded the laterality of recumbent posture, which was coded based on the direction of the legs against the torso (right or left). Seasonal differences in sleep behaviors between summer and winter were observed in both individuals. They tended to start to lie down earlier in the winter than in the summer. Parturition also affected the behaviors as both individuals decreased the behaviors before and after the parturition of the female. Additionally, the female lay on her left side less frequently than her right when resuming a recumbent posture in the pre‐parturition period, while such laterality was not observed in the baseline and post‐parturition period. These results suggested that season and parturition are important factors for determining the sleep‐related behaviors in giraffes. Further studies are needed to understand how these changes in sleep affect other welfare parameters.

How does feeding regime affect behaviour and activity in captive African lions (Panthera leo)? (Höttges et al., 2019)

August 16, 2019

Abstract: Lions (Panthera leo) are popular zoo animals and obligate carnivores. In the past, zoos focused on the nutritional aspect of feeding, whereas today they aim to encourage naturalistic feeding. AZA’s Lion Care Manual recommends a frequent feeding schedule, while other sources highlight the benefits of unpredictable, infrequent feeding schedules. Further, the husbandry guidelines for lions by EAZA propose to feed lions separately. To assess how lions are affected by feeding frequency, we collected data on five behaviour categories (social, agonistic, exploratory, marking, maintenance) and four activity categories (inactive, active, feed, pace) of four captive lion prides held on either high frequency (HF) or low frequency feeding (LF). We found that some behaviour categories (agonistic, exploratory and marking) and one activity (feeding) were more frequent for lions on HF feeding. Lions on both feeding regimes engaged more often in agonistic behaviour and were more inactive on feeding days than fasting days. On fasting days, activity and pacing as well as exploratory, maintenance, marking and social behaviour were more frequent than on feeding days. During the consecutive fasting days the lions on LF feeding were increasingly active. The results show that LF feeding with whole carcasses allowed the prides to resolve social discrepancies during feeding, which reduced aggression between feedings. LF feeding resulted in satiety of the lions to the extent of altered behaviour during feeding day and the first fasting day, whereas lions on HF feeding showed unvarying behaviour during feeding and fasting days suggesting a lack of satiety.

Photo credit: Kolmården

A Zoo Animal's Neighbourhood: How Conspecific Neighbours Impact Welfare (Whitham & Miller, 2019)

July 11, 2019

Abstract: While the zoological community strives to provide the best possible living environment for non-human animals, space limitations constrain where zoos can house particular species. Therefore, an individual may live in proximity to animals that impact its behaviour, physiology, reproductive function or overall welfare status. This article examines how solitary and social species living in managed settings are positively and negatively affected by conspecific neighbours. When making housing decisions, zoos should follow husbandry recommendations outlined by zoo associations, integrate natural history information and attempt to view the environment from the perspective of the species of interest. Furthermore, researchers can collect survey, behavioural and physiological data to examine how variables, such as density, distance between neighbours, the age/sex of conspecifics and types/amount of exposure to others influence welfare. Ultimately, zoos should consider the needs of individuals and investigate whether welfare can be enhanced by modifying enclosures, husbandry routines, enrichment schedules or access to conspecifics. A zoo's willingness to alter an animals exposure to conspecifics may have a substantial impact on physical, mental and emotional health.

Photo credit: Chicago Zoological Society/Brookfield Zoo

Assessing Stress in Zoo-Housed Western Lowland Gorillas (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) Using Allostatic Load (Edes et al. 2016)

June 05, 2019

Abstract: Stress contributes to the development of chronic degenerative diseases in primates. Allostatic load is an estimate of stress-induced physiological dysregulation based on an index of multiple biomarkers. It has been applied to humans to measure effects of stress and predict health outcomes. Assessing allostatic load in nonhuman primates may aid in understanding factors promoting compromised health and longevity in captive populations, as well as risk assessment among wild populations following human activities. We applied an allostatic load index to gorillas housed at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium (N = 27, 1956–2014) using data from medical records and biomarkers from banked serum. We estimated allostatic load using seven biomarkers (albumin, cortisol, corticotropin-releasing hormone, dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate, glucose, interleukin-6, and tumor necrosis factor alpha) and then examined this index for associations with age, sex, number of stressful events, parturition, physiological health measures, and age at death. Stressful events were defined as agonistic interactions with wounding, translocations, and anesthetizations. Allostatic load positively associated with age and total number of lifetime stressful events. Allostatic load was significantly higher in females than in males. Allostatic load was not associated with number of pregnancies and was not different between nulliparous and parous females. Allostatic load associated positively with serum creatinine and triglyceride levels, showed a nonsignificant negative association with cholesterol, and did not associate significantly with age at death. These results demonstrate the potential utility of allostatic load for exploring long-term stress and health risks, as well as for evaluating environmental stressors for gorillas and other nonhuman primates in captivity and in the wild.

Photo credit: Columbus Zoo

Body Condition Scores (BCS) in European zoo elephants' (Loxodonta africana and Elephas maximus) lifetimes – a longitudinal analysis (Schiffman, 2019)

May 09, 2019

Abstract: In Body Condition Scores (BCS) in European zoo elephants' (Loxodonta africana and Elephas maximus) lifetimes – a longitudinal analysis (Schiffman, 2019)further improving zoo elephant welfare, the diet and feeding regime are key factors. Together with the encouragement of physical activity, they may support the management and prevention of overweight and obesity, which are considered a common concern in zoo elephants. Besides weight monitoring, visual body condition scoring (BCS) has proven a practical tool for the assessment of (zoo) elephants' physical condition. From the individual management as well as the medical perspective, documentation of an elephant´s BCS development over time might be much more informative than a population-wide cross-sectional analysis. We present a compilation of comprehensive data over zoo elephants´ lifetimes regarding BCS and influencing factors such as reproductive activity, physical disorders, advanced age, stressful situations and diet adaptations. Our study of the European zoo elephant population describes the reflection of various life circumstances and management adaptations in the BCS of individual elephants, and changes of population-wide BCS over time. The establishment of an online archive to build up a reliable, individual-based data basis with minimal additional workload for elephant-keeping facilities is proposed.

Photo credit: Zoo Basel

Developing a Metric of Usable Space for Zoo Exhibits (Browning & Maple, 2019)

April 14, 2019

Abstract: The size of animal exhibits has important effects on their lives and welfare. However, most references to exhibit size only consider floor space and height dimensions, without considering the space afforded by usable features within the exhibit. In this paper, we develop two possible methods for measuring the usable space of zoo exhibits and apply these to a sample exhibit. Having a metric for usable space in place will provide a better reflection of the quality of different exhibits, and enhance comparisons between exhibits.

Photo: Jacksonville Zoo & Gardens

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