Specialised for the Swamp, Catered for in Captivity? A Cross-Institutional Evaluation of Captive Husbandry for Two Species of Lechwe
Centre for Research in Animal Behaviour, College of Life & Environmental Sciences, Washington Singer Labs, University of Exeter, Perry Road, Exeter, Devon EX4 4QG, UK
WWT, Slimbridge Wetlands Centre, Gloucestershire GL2 7BT, UK
Zoological Society of London, Outer Circle, Regent’s Park, London NW1 4RY, UK
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 15 September 2020
Revised: 7 October 2020
Accepted: 10 October 2020
Published: 14 October 2020
Lechwe are social antelope adapted to wetland environments that can perform a ritualised courtship display. Although commonly housed in zoos, there is little published information available to guide their management. This study aimed to understand current husbandry practice for southern and Nile lechwe housed in North American and European institutions. A survey was sent to holders of these species, with questions addressing group demographics, enclosure characteristics, diet, enrichment, and occurrence of abnormal behaviours. Results showed that captive lechwe herds consisted of a similar ratio of male to females compared to wild herds, but there may be a limit to the number of male animals available to females at any one time. Lechwe enclosures typically featured wetland areas but these were rarely managed and there were often limited areas of vegetation for cover. The diets provided to lechwe differed when compared to existing husbandry guidelines but did not significantly differ between sampled zoos (in terms of ingredients commonly used). Abnormal behaviours were reported at several zoos but no specific causal factor was identified. This research provides a starting point for further study of the husbandry requirements of these specialised ungulates and considers the role of ecological information to the management of captive wild animals.