Mapping Shade Availability and Use in Zoo Environments: A Tool for Evaluating Thermal Comfort
Animal Welfare Science Program, Lincoln Park Zoo, Chicago, IL 60614, USA
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Received: 24 June 2020 / Revised: 7 July 2020 / Accepted: 7 July 2020 / Published: 14 July 2020
The thermal environment experienced by animals in zoos has implications for their comfort, and ultimately welfare. In this study, we describe a simple low-cost approach to documenting one key aspect of the environment, shade, and its use by animals. We share a successive approach that can be adopted based on an organization’s capacity: Ranging from simple mapping of shade availability in enclosures that can be built upon to incorporate more advanced tracking of space use by animals and detailed assessment of shade use. Using these methods, we discovered shade availability at a zoo in a northern continental climate varied greatly across enclosures, as well as by season and time of day. We present a case study on Sichuan takin to highlight the applied potential of this approach. Relying on insights from a combination of shade and behavioral data, a shade structure was installed and then evaluated for this species. As zoos seek to create enclosures that promote positive welfare, careful consideration should be paid to the thermal environment and choices available to animals. We share these accessible methods to encourage others to evaluate shade and its use by zoo animals.