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Article

Use of Remote Camera Traps to Evaluate Animal-Based Welfare Indicators in Individual Free-Roaming Wild Horses

1
Centre for Compassionate Conservation, School of Life Sciences, University of Technology Sydney, Ultimo, NSW 2007, Australia
2
Jemora Pty Ltd., P.O. Box 2277, Geelong, VIC 3220, Australia
3
Animal Welfare Science and Bioethics Centre, School of Veterinary Science, Massey University, Palmerston North 4442, New Zealand
4
Veterinary Contractor, c/o Animal Emergency Australia, P.O. Box 1854, Springwood, QLD 4217, Australia
5
Blue Mountains World Heritage Institute, 16 Dunmore Lane, Katoomba, NSW 2780, Australia
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editors: Melissa Hempstead and Danila Marini
Animals 2021, 11(7), 2101; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11072101
Received: 29 May 2021 / Revised: 12 July 2021 / Accepted: 13 July 2021 / Published: 15 July 2021
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Animal Welfare Assessment: Novel Approaches and Technologies)
Knowledge of the welfare status of wild animals is critical for informing debates about how we interact with them. However, methodology to enable assessment of the welfare of free-roaming wild animals has been lacking. In this study, we assessed the use of remote camera traps to non-invasively identify individual free-roaming wild horses and evaluate an extensive range of welfare indicators. Camera trapping was successful in detecting and identifying horses across a range of habitats including woodlands where horses could not be directly observed. Twelve indicators of welfare were assessed with equal frequency using both still images and video, with an additional five indicators assessed on video. This is the first time such a methodology has been described for assessing a range of welfare indicators in free-roaming wild animals. The methodology described can also be adjusted and applied to other species, enabling significant advances to be made in the field of wild animal welfare.
We previously developed a Ten-Stage Protocol for scientifically assessing the welfare of individual free-roaming wild animals using the Five Domains Model. The protocol includes developing methods for measuring or observing welfare indices. In this study, we assessed the use of remote camera traps to evaluate an extensive range of welfare indicators in individual free-roaming wild horses. Still images and videos were collected and analysed to assess whether horses could be detected and identified individually, which welfare indicators could be reliably evaluated, and whether behaviour could be quantitatively assessed. Remote camera trapping was successful in detecting and identifying horses (75% on still images and 72% on video observation events), across a range of habitats including woodlands where horses could not be directly observed. Twelve indicators of welfare across the Five Domains were assessed with equal frequency on both still images and video, with those most frequently assessable being body condition score (73% and 79% of observation events, respectively), body posture (76% for both), coat condition (42% and 52%, respectively), and whether or not the horse was sweating excessively (42% and 45%, respectively). An additional five indicators could only be assessed on video; those most frequently observable being presence or absence of weakness (66%), qualitative behavioural assessment (60%), presence or absence of shivering (51%), and gait at walk (50%). Specific behaviours were identified in 93% of still images and 84% of video events, and proportions of time different behaviours were captured could be calculated. Most social behaviours were rarely observed, but close spatial proximity to other horses, as an indicator of social bonds, was recorded in 36% of still images, and 29% of video observation events. This is the first study that describes detailed methodology for these purposes. The results of this study can also form the basis of application to other species, which could contribute significantly to advancing the field of wild animal welfare. View Full-Text
Keywords: welfare assessment; animal-based welfare indicators; camera traps; wild horses welfare assessment; animal-based welfare indicators; camera traps; wild horses
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MDPI and ACS Style

Harvey, A.M.; Morton, J.M.; Mellor, D.J.; Russell, V.; Chapple, R.S.; Ramp, D. Use of Remote Camera Traps to Evaluate Animal-Based Welfare Indicators in Individual Free-Roaming Wild Horses. Animals 2021, 11, 2101. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11072101

AMA Style

Harvey AM, Morton JM, Mellor DJ, Russell V, Chapple RS, Ramp D. Use of Remote Camera Traps to Evaluate Animal-Based Welfare Indicators in Individual Free-Roaming Wild Horses. Animals. 2021; 11(7):2101. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11072101

Chicago/Turabian Style

Harvey, Andrea M., John M. Morton, David J. Mellor, Vibeke Russell, Rosalie S. Chapple, and Daniel Ramp. 2021. "Use of Remote Camera Traps to Evaluate Animal-Based Welfare Indicators in Individual Free-Roaming Wild Horses" Animals 11, no. 7: 2101. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11072101

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