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Can Zoos Ever Be Big Enough for Large Wild Animals? A Review Using an Expert Panel Assessment of the Psychological Priorities of the Amur Tiger (Panthera tigris altaica) as a Model Species

School of Animal, Rural and Environmental Sciences, Nottingham Trent University, Southwell NG25 0QF, UK
Animals 2020, 10(9), 1536; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10091536
Received: 20 July 2020 / Revised: 24 August 2020 / Accepted: 24 August 2020 / Published: 31 August 2020
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Evidence-Based Practice in Zoo Animal Management)
The reduction in space available to wild animals in zoos and aquariums is widely perceived to be detrimental to their welfare by scientists and the general public alike. Evidence suggests that naturally wide-ranging carnivores are more likely to suffer in captivity than those that travel less widely. Using the Amur tiger as a representative for wide-ranging species frequently held in zoos, an expert panel assessment was undertaken to identify psychological priorities in order to see how the negative welfare impacts of reduced ranging opportunities might be most effectively overcome. This assessment highlights that whilst reduced access to space may be central to compromised welfare for many species, there may be more effective strategies in safeguarding welfare than simply making captive habitats marginally bigger. Central to this for Amur tigers is providing appropriate mental stimulation rather than focusing only on behaviours linked to hunting. Various strategies intended to safeguard welfare are discussed for Amur tigers, which can also be considered for other wide-ranging species.
The ecology of large, wide-ranging carnivores appears to make them vulnerable to conservation challenges in the wild and welfare challenges in captivity. This poses an ethical dilemma for the zoo community and supports the case that there is a need to reconsider prevailing management paradigms for these species in captivity. Whilst the welfare challenges wide ranging carnivores face have been attributed to reduced ranging opportunities associated with the decreased size of captive habitats, attempts to augment wild carnivore welfare in captivity typically focus on behaviours linked to hunting. Thus far, this has yet to result in the systematic elimination of signs of compromised welfare amongst captive carnivores. Here an assessment is carried out to identify the likely welfare priorities for Amur tigers, which, as one of the widest ranging terrestrial carnivores, serves as an excellent exemplar for species experiencing extreme compression of their ranging opportunities in captivity. These priorities are then used to consider novel strategies to address the welfare challenges associated with existing management paradigms, and in particular, attempt to overcome the issue of restricted space. The insights generated here have wider implications for other species experiencing substantive habitat compression in captivity. It is proposed here that the impact of habitat compression on captive carnivore welfare may not be a consequence of the reduction in habitat size per se, but rather the reduction in cognitive opportunities that likely covary with size, and that this should inform strategies to augment welfare. View Full-Text
Keywords: Amur tiger; animal welfare; zoo; psychological priority; behavioural need Amur tiger; animal welfare; zoo; psychological priority; behavioural need
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MDPI and ACS Style

Veasey, J.S. Can Zoos Ever Be Big Enough for Large Wild Animals? A Review Using an Expert Panel Assessment of the Psychological Priorities of the Amur Tiger (Panthera tigris altaica) as a Model Species. Animals 2020, 10, 1536. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10091536

AMA Style

Veasey JS. Can Zoos Ever Be Big Enough for Large Wild Animals? A Review Using an Expert Panel Assessment of the Psychological Priorities of the Amur Tiger (Panthera tigris altaica) as a Model Species. Animals. 2020; 10(9):1536. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10091536

Chicago/Turabian Style

Veasey, Jake S. 2020. "Can Zoos Ever Be Big Enough for Large Wild Animals? A Review Using an Expert Panel Assessment of the Psychological Priorities of the Amur Tiger (Panthera tigris altaica) as a Model Species" Animals 10, no. 9: 1536. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10091536

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Note that from the first issue of 2016, MDPI journals use article numbers instead of page numbers. See further details here.

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