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J. Zool. Bot. Gard., Volume 2, Issue 3 (September 2021) – 15 articles

Cover Story (view full-size image): Zoo visitors tend to observe more visible and active animals, and large-bodied animals seem to be preferred. However, observing diverse animals and learning animal behavior and habitats are necessary to enhance conservation education in zoos. We revealed differences in effects between reading and understanding during stamp collection and a quiz game focused on “animal observations” and “perception of information boards.” Our findings showed that both the stamp collection and the quiz game were effective for reading and observing and are interesting techniques for learning about various captive species. However, the quiz game that urged observing target species and reading information boards is a more effective tool to learn about the ecology and conservation of captive species. View this paper
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Article
Comparative Study of Ovule Development between Wild (Passiflora foetida L.) and Cultivated (P. edulis Sims) Species of Passiflora L. Provide Insights into Its Differential Developmental Patterns
J. Zool. Bot. Gard. 2021, 2(3), 502-516; https://doi.org/10.3390/jzbg2030036 - 17 Sep 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1283
Abstract
The ovules inside the ovary of a plant are the precursors of seeds and they are important for the perpetuation of the plants. The genus Passiflora L., produce fruits with numerous seeds and they have economic and medicinal value. The edible portion of [...] Read more.
The ovules inside the ovary of a plant are the precursors of seeds and they are important for the perpetuation of the plants. The genus Passiflora L., produce fruits with numerous seeds and they have economic and medicinal value. The edible portion of the Passiflora are the seeds surrounded by pulp. Being the edible parts of a fruit, it is important to investigate the early development of ovules in Passiflora that lead to the formation of seeds after pollination. Wild relatives of the domesticated crops are increasingly being investigated for possible genetic resources that can be used for crop improvement programs. The present study was designed to investigate the comparative ovule development between a wild (Passiflora foetida L.) and a cultivated (Passiflora edulis Sims) species of Passiflora with an aim that it may provide important information about the common and diverging regulatory mechanisms during ovule development between the wild and the cultivated species. We also investigated the pollen morphology between the wild and cultivated species using light and scanning electron microscopy. Our results show that wild type P. foetida ovule growth is faster when compared with that of cultivated P. edulis. Furthermore, wild species harbour ovules of large size (0.14 mm2) but less in number (6) as compared to cultivated ones which show smaller size (0.05 mm2) of ovules but relatively more in number (21). The differences in ovary wall thickness were also stark between the two species. The ovary wall thickness was 0.10 mm in the wild type whereas it was 0.74 mm in cultivated species. Notable differences were also observed in diameter where the wild type (2.45 mm) reported smaller diameter than cultivated species (3.25 mm). We observed little difference in the pollen morphology between the two species. Full article
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Article
Behavioural Responses to Temporary Separation of a Captive Herd of African Elephants (Loxodonta africana)
J. Zool. Bot. Gard. 2021, 2(3), 487-501; https://doi.org/10.3390/jzbg2030035 - 16 Sep 2021
Viewed by 1575
Abstract
Elephants are highly intelligent animals with a huge capacity for social cognition, living in large, long-lived, related herds. In captivity, it is extremely difficult to meet all of the species’ ecological needs, as well as those required individual by individual, but improvements are [...] Read more.
Elephants are highly intelligent animals with a huge capacity for social cognition, living in large, long-lived, related herds. In captivity, it is extremely difficult to meet all of the species’ ecological needs, as well as those required individual by individual, but improvements are continually being made. After identifying impaired welfare, one collection made the decision to relocate four female African Elephants (Loxodonta africana) to a different facility. As the worlds’ largest land mammal, many safety, welfare, and logistical considerations were undertaken. The elephants travelled in two pairs, a mother–daughter pair and an older unrelated female and a younger unrelated female with a strong social bond. As a result, there was a short gap in between transports, allowing for further habituation to transport crates and the heat of summer. The changes in both social and individual behaviours of the two females remaining when their group was temporarily reduced from four to two were investigated using one-zero sampling. The study determined the daily activities of the elephants comparing ‘before transport’ to ‘after transport’ for the two remaining elephants to establish any changes in their behaviours as a result of this disturbance. Post transport, there was an increase in both human-audible vocalisations and temporal gland secretions, and hugely decreased play behaviour was observed. The dynamic between the remaining pair was also altered with more tactile behaviours from mother to daughter seen but more submission from daughter to mother. This led to the conclusion that the elephants, although mostly unrelated and living in an ‘unnatural’ captive setting, had the same signs of stress and behavioural change as would a highly related group if separated. Full article
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Article
Does an Animal–Visitor Interactive Experience Drive Conservation Action?
J. Zool. Bot. Gard. 2021, 2(3), 473-486; https://doi.org/10.3390/jzbg2030034 - 07 Sep 2021
Viewed by 2316
Abstract
Inspiring visitors to engage in conservation-related behaviour following a zoo visit is a primary objective for most zoos. Animal–visitor interactive (AVI) experiences are often central to this goal. Yet, these interactive experiences are insufficiently evaluated from both the visitors’ and captive animals’ perspectives. [...] Read more.
Inspiring visitors to engage in conservation-related behaviour following a zoo visit is a primary objective for most zoos. Animal–visitor interactive (AVI) experiences are often central to this goal. Yet, these interactive experiences are insufficiently evaluated from both the visitors’ and captive animals’ perspectives. The current study took place at Fota Wildlife Park and involved the construction of an environmental enrichment device during an interactive visitor experience with Sumatran tigers (Panthera tigris sumatrae). It aimed to simultaneously encourage pro-conservation behaviour in visitors and promote animal welfare. Visitors (n = 51) completed a survey, observed the tigers’ behaviour and made a pledge to help tigers in the wild after completion of the AVI. Tiger behaviour was simultaneously observed by a trained researcher using occurrence or non-occurrence sampling, which found no indication that tiger welfare was compromised during the activity and was likely enhanced by engaging with the enrichment. Additionally, visitors observed a range of tigers’ behaviours. The results indicated that some visitors (8%) had continued with their pledge six weeks after the experience, and most visitors exhibited a high level of knowledge and a positive attitude towards tigers. The use of enrichment during AVIs may be a positive link between the visitor experience and animal welfare. These results can be used to guide AVIs in zoos which aim to connect people with nature and drive pro-conservation behaviour in visitors. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Zoos as a Tool for Re-Connecting People with Nature)
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Article
Diagnostic Species Diversity Pattern Can Provide Key Information on Vegetation Change: An Insight into High Mountain Habitats in Central Apennines
J. Zool. Bot. Gard. 2021, 2(3), 453-472; https://doi.org/10.3390/jzbg2030033 - 03 Sep 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1180
Abstract
High mountain ecosystems are hotspots of biodiversity that are highly vulnerable to climate warming and land use change. In Europe, high mountain habitats are included in the EC Directive 92/43/EEC (Habitats Directive) and the identification of practices facilitating effective monitoring is crucial for [...] Read more.
High mountain ecosystems are hotspots of biodiversity that are highly vulnerable to climate warming and land use change. In Europe, high mountain habitats are included in the EC Directive 92/43/EEC (Habitats Directive) and the identification of practices facilitating effective monitoring is crucial for meeting HD goals. We analyzed the temporal changes in species composition and diversity on high mountain EU habitats and explored if the subgroup of diagnostic species was able to summarize the comprehensive information on plant community variations. We performed a re-visitation study, using a set of 30 georeferenced historical plots newly collected after 20 years on two EU habitats (Galium magellense community growing on screes (8120 EU) and Trifolium thalii community of snowbeds (6170 EU)) in the Maiella National Park (MNP), which is one of the most threatened Mediterranean mountains in Europe. The presence of several endangered species and the availability of a botanical garden, a seed bank, and a nursery, make the MNP an excellent training ground to explore in situ and ex situ conservation strategies. We compared overall and diagnostic species richness patterns over time by rarefaction curves and described the singular aspects of species diversity (e.g., richness, Shannon index, Simpson index, and Berger–Parker index), by Rènyi’s diversity profiles. Diversity values consistently varied over time and across EU habitat types, with increasing values on scree communities and decreasing values on snowbeds. These changes could be associated with both land use change, through the increase of grazing pressure of Apennine chamois (Rupicapra pyrenaica ornata), which determined a rise of nitrophilous species in the scree community, and an increase of grasses at the expense of forbs in snowbeds, and to climate change, which promoted a general expansion of thermophilous species. Despite the two opposite, ongoing processes on the two plant communities studied, our results evidenced that diagnostic species and overall species followed the same trend of variation, demonstrating the potential of diagnostics for EU habitat monitoring. Our observations suggested that the re-visitation of historical plots and the implementation of frequent monitoring campaigns on diagnostic species can provide important data on species abundance and distribution patterns in these vulnerable ecosystems, supporting optimized in situ and ex situ conservation actions. Full article
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Article
Exploring the Impact of Educational Quizzes and Stamp Collecting Trails on Zoo Visitor Learning and Exhibit Observation
J. Zool. Bot. Gard. 2021, 2(3), 445-452; https://doi.org/10.3390/jzbg2030032 - 20 Aug 2021
Viewed by 1476
Abstract
Visitors observe diverse animals during zoo visits and learn more about animals by reading information boards that provide conservation education on animal behavior and habitats. This study revealed differences in effects between reading and understanding during stamp collection and a quiz game focused [...] Read more.
Visitors observe diverse animals during zoo visits and learn more about animals by reading information boards that provide conservation education on animal behavior and habitats. This study revealed differences in effects between reading and understanding during stamp collection and a quiz game focused on “animal observations” and “perception of information boards”. Stamp collection and the quiz game were both effective for reading and observing. These were interesting techniques for learning about various captive species. The quiz game that urged observing target species and reading information boards was found to be a more effective tool to learn about the ecology and conservation of captive species. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Zoos as a Tool for Re-Connecting People with Nature)
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Article
Conducting Behavioural Research in the Zoo: A Guide to Ten Important Methods, Concepts and Theories
J. Zool. Bot. Gard. 2021, 2(3), 421-444; https://doi.org/10.3390/jzbg2030031 - 10 Aug 2021
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 3513
Abstract
Behavioural research in zoos is commonplace and is used in the diagnosis and treatment of potential husbandry and management challenges. Robust methods that allow valid data collection and analysis constitute an evidence-based approach to animal care. Understanding behaviour is essential to improving animal [...] Read more.
Behavioural research in zoos is commonplace and is used in the diagnosis and treatment of potential husbandry and management challenges. Robust methods that allow valid data collection and analysis constitute an evidence-based approach to animal care. Understanding behaviour is essential to improving animal management, and behavioural research is therefore popular, with a wide choice of behavioural methodologies and theories available. This review outlines ten methodological approaches, concepts or theories essential to zoo science that are based around behavioural observation. This list is not exhaustive but aims to define and describe key areas of consideration when planning and implementing a zoo-based behavioural project. We discuss the application of well-established methods (the construction of ethograms, use of time–activity patterns and measurement of space/enclosure use) as well as evaluating newer or less-widely applied analytical techniques, such as behavioural diversity indices, social networks analysis and Qualitative Behavioural Assessment. We also consider the importance of fundamental research methods, the application of pure science to understand and interpret zoo animal behaviour (with a review of a Tinbergian approach) and consideration of meta-analyses. The integration of observational techniques into experiments that aim to identify the cause and effect of behavioural performance is then explored, and we examine the assimilation of behavioural methods used in studies of environmental enrichment. By systematically studying animal behaviour, we can attempt to understand the welfare of individual animals in captivity, and here we present an example of our reviewed approaches to this area of zoo science. Combining multiple methodologies can lead to a greater understanding of behaviour and welfare, creating robust research, progressing husbandry and advancing conservation strategies. Collaborations between zoological collections and academic researchers (e.g., in Higher Education Institutions) can further refine and enhance the validity of research and husbandry practice alike. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Zoos and Aquariums as Tools for Wildlife Conservation)
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Brief Report
Accurate Epigenetic Aging in Bottlenose Dolphins (Tursiops truncatus), an Essential Step in the Conservation of at-Risk Dolphins
J. Zool. Bot. Gard. 2021, 2(3), 416-420; https://doi.org/10.3390/jzbg2030030 - 06 Aug 2021
Viewed by 2313
Abstract
Epigenetics, specifically DNA methylation, allows for the estimation of animal age from blood or remotely sampled skin. This multi-tissue epigenetic age estimation clock uses 110 longitudinal samples from 34 Navy bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus), identifying 195 cytosine-phosphate-guanine sites associated with chronological [...] Read more.
Epigenetics, specifically DNA methylation, allows for the estimation of animal age from blood or remotely sampled skin. This multi-tissue epigenetic age estimation clock uses 110 longitudinal samples from 34 Navy bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus), identifying 195 cytosine-phosphate-guanine sites associated with chronological aging via cross-validation with one individual left out in each fold (R2 = 0.95). With a median absolute error of 2.5 years, this clock improves age estimation capacity in wild dolphins, helping conservation efforts and enabling a better understanding of population demographics. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Cetaceans: Conservation, Health, and Welfare)
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Article
Age-Dependent Enclosure Use in Juvenile Chinese Crocodile Lizards, Shinisaurus crocodilurus crocodilurus
J. Zool. Bot. Gard. 2021, 2(3), 406-415; https://doi.org/10.3390/jzbg2030029 - 01 Aug 2021
Viewed by 1784
Abstract
This study compared the resource use of juvenile zoo-living Chinese crocodile lizards, Shinisaurus crocodilurus crocodilurus across three observation windows, spanning nine months, accounting for time of day and lizard age, and under consistent environmental conditions. Lizards showed a significant difference in proportionate resource [...] Read more.
This study compared the resource use of juvenile zoo-living Chinese crocodile lizards, Shinisaurus crocodilurus crocodilurus across three observation windows, spanning nine months, accounting for time of day and lizard age, and under consistent environmental conditions. Lizards showed a significant difference in proportionate resource use, quantified using a modified spread of participation indices between the second and final sampling period, such that with increasing age, resources were more equally utilised. The time of day did not have a significant effect on resource use. Lizards in this study significantly increased their use of water bodies and branches outside the bask zone and decreased their use of the land areas within the bask zones over time. Resource use data suggests the importance of providing enclosures which cater to ontogenetic shifts in captive individuals or within mixed age groupings. Full article
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Review
A Global Survey of Current Zoo Housing and Husbandry Practices for Fossa: A Preliminary Review
J. Zool. Bot. Gard. 2021, 2(3), 388-405; https://doi.org/10.3390/jzbg2030028 - 20 Jul 2021
Viewed by 2381
Abstract
The fossa is a specialized Malagasy carnivore housed in ex situ facilities since the late 19th century. Moderate breeding success has occurred since the 1970s, and welfare issues (notably stereotypic pacing behaviour) are commonly documented. To understand challenges relating to fossa housing and [...] Read more.
The fossa is a specialized Malagasy carnivore housed in ex situ facilities since the late 19th century. Moderate breeding success has occurred since the 1970s, and welfare issues (notably stereotypic pacing behaviour) are commonly documented. To understand challenges relating to fossa housing and husbandry (H&H) across global facilities and to identify areas of good practice that dovetail with available husbandry standards, a survey was distributed to ZIMS-registered zoos in 2017. Results showed that outdoor housing area and volume varied greatly across facilities, the majority of fossa expressed unnatural behaviours, with pacing behaviour the most frequently observed. All fossa received enrichment, and most had public access restricted to one or two sides of the enclosure. The majority of fossa were locked in/out as part of their daily management and forty-one percent of the fossa surveyed as breeding individuals bred at the zoo. Dense cover within an enclosure, restricted public viewing areas, a variable feeding schedule and limited view of another species from the fossa exhibit appear to reduce the risk of unnatural behavior being performed. The achievement of best practice fossa husbandry may be a challenge due to its specialized ecology, the limited wild information guiding captive care, and the range of housing dimensions and exhibit features provided by zoos that makes identification of standardized practices difficult. We recommended that holders evaluate how and when enrichment is provided and assess what they are providing for environmental complexity as well as consider how the public views their fossa. Full article
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Article
Calcium Accumulation and Loss and Vitamin D3 Content of Feeder Black Field Crickets (Gryllus bimaculatus) Fed on a High Calcium Diet with and without UVB Irradiation
J. Zool. Bot. Gard. 2021, 2(3), 382-387; https://doi.org/10.3390/jzbg2030027 - 16 Jul 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1176
Abstract
Calcium metabolism in insectivores may be perturbed by insufficient calcium or vitamin D3. Insects may be gut loaded to increase calcium content, and recent research shows that exposure to UVB radiation can increase the vitamin D3 content of some invertebrates. [...] Read more.
Calcium metabolism in insectivores may be perturbed by insufficient calcium or vitamin D3. Insects may be gut loaded to increase calcium content, and recent research shows that exposure to UVB radiation can increase the vitamin D3 content of some invertebrates. Typical gut loading protocols result in peak calcium content after 24–48 h, while existing evidence with UVB irradiation involves exposure periods of tens of days. We UVB-irradiated fasted black field crickets (Gryllus bimaculatus) while feeding them on high calcium diets for 48 h, then fasted them for a further 24 h, and measured the vitamin D3, calcium, and phosphorus content compared with non-irradiated controls. UVB irradiation had no effect on vitamin D3 (crickets had no detectable levels of vitamin D3 at any point), or on calcium accumulation rates, which approximated existing research. Crickets significantly increased their calcium:phosphorus ratio from 0.17 to approximately 0.4 over 24 h and this did not increase over a further 24 h of feeding. Removal of the food source resulted in loss of all accumulated calcium within 24 h. Our results have implications for managing food sources for captive insectivores and highlight the importance of good feeder preparation and rapid consumption to ensure optimal calcium delivery to predators. Full article
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Article
Assessing the Impacts of Engaging with a Touch Table on Safari Park Visitors
J. Zool. Bot. Gard. 2021, 2(3), 370-381; https://doi.org/10.3390/jzbg2030026 - 14 Jul 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1310
Abstract
Modern zoos are increasingly viewed as educational facilities, with informal education programmes attempting to engage with visitors through a wide variety of methods. A ‘touch table’ consists of two collapsible tables which display a variety of artefacts to the public. This study investigated [...] Read more.
Modern zoos are increasingly viewed as educational facilities, with informal education programmes attempting to engage with visitors through a wide variety of methods. A ‘touch table’ consists of two collapsible tables which display a variety of artefacts to the public. This study investigated visitor engagement with touch tables alongside types of conversations being initiated by visitors. Covert observations recorded the type of groups visiting, their dwell time, perceived engagement level and the types of interactions and conversations they were initiating at the touch table. Dwell time was affected by the season, member of staff present, type of group visiting the touch table and engagement level of the group. Engagement level was also affected by group type. Longer average dwell time and higher engagement levels were displayed at a long-established touch table location, whereas more visitors engaged at the touch table when it was at a new location with predicted high footfall. Here, 68.3% of visitors initiated ‘surface level’ conversation, 27.2% initiated ‘deeper level’ conversation and 89.6% initiated ‘other’ conversation. This study resulted in touch table offerings being adapted to further increase their effectiveness as an informal education tool and to suggests ways in which touch tables can continue in a post COVID-19 world. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Zoos as a Tool for Re-Connecting People with Nature)
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Article
Common Bottlenose Dolphin, Tursiops truncatus, Behavioral Response to a Record-Breaking Flood Event in Pensacola Bay, Florida
J. Zool. Bot. Gard. 2021, 2(3), 351-369; https://doi.org/10.3390/jzbg2030025 - 05 Jul 2021
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1180
Abstract
Common bottlenose dolphins, Tursiops truncatus, can suffer health complications from prolonged freshwater exposure; however, little is known about how dolphins behaviorally respond to flood events. We investigated whether dolphins mitigated their freshwater exposure by moving south towards the estuary mouth and/or towards [...] Read more.
Common bottlenose dolphins, Tursiops truncatus, can suffer health complications from prolonged freshwater exposure; however, little is known about how dolphins behaviorally respond to flood events. We investigated whether dolphins mitigated their freshwater exposure by moving south towards the estuary mouth and/or towards deeper areas with higher salinities in response to a record-breaking flood in Pensacola Bay, Florida. In total, 144 dolphin groups observed during 45 population dynamic surveys were analyzed across two flood-impacted sampling sessions and their respective seasonal control sessions. Kernel density estimates demonstrated southern movement towards the estuary mouth during flood-impacted sessions, but this distribution change was limited. Species distribution models showed that dolphins did not move to deeper areas after the flood and dolphin distribution was not substantially altered by flood-induced salinity changes. The estuary system exhibits strongly stratified waters with broad salinity ranges even during the flood. Dolphins may have mitigated the severity of freshwater exposure by capitalizing on these stratified areas as they continued to use habitat affected by the flood. A lack of avoidance of low salinity could result in this dolphin population being at greater risk for health problems, which should be considered in future population management and conservation. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Cetaceans: Conservation, Health, and Welfare)
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Editorial
Working to Supply the Demand: Recent Advances in the Science of Zoo Animal Welfare
J. Zool. Bot. Gard. 2021, 2(3), 349-350; https://doi.org/10.3390/jzbg2030024 - 01 Jul 2021
Viewed by 1018
Abstract
If animal welfare scientists were economists, we would be saying that the demand for knowledge is increasing faster than the supply [...] Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Recent Advances in the Science of Zoo and Aquarium Animal Welfare)
Article
Investigation of Environmentally Dependent Movement of Bottlenose Dolphins (Tursiops truncatus)
J. Zool. Bot. Gard. 2021, 2(3), 335-348; https://doi.org/10.3390/jzbg2030023 - 26 Jun 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 860
Abstract
How environmental features (e.g., people, enrichment, or other animals) affect movement is an important element for the study of animal behavior, biomechanics, and welfare. Here we present a stationary overhead camera-based persistent monitoring framework for the investigation of bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus [...] Read more.
How environmental features (e.g., people, enrichment, or other animals) affect movement is an important element for the study of animal behavior, biomechanics, and welfare. Here we present a stationary overhead camera-based persistent monitoring framework for the investigation of bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) response to environmental stimuli. Mask R-CNN, a convolutional neural network architecture, was trained to automatically detect 3 object types in the environment: dolphins, people, and enrichment floats that were introduced to stimulate and engage the animals. Detected objects within each video frame were linked together to create track segments across frames. The animals’ tracks were used to parameterize their response to the presence of environmental stimuli. We collected and analyzed data from 24 sessions from bottlenose dolphins in a managed lagoon environment. The seasons had an average duration of 1 h and around half of them had enrichment (42%) while the rest (58%) did not. People were visible in the environment for 18.8% of the total time (∼4.5 h), more often when enrichment was present (∼3 h) than without (∼1.5 h). When neither enrichment nor people were present, the animals swam at an average speed of 1.2 m/s. When enrichment was added to the lagoon, average swimming speed decreased to 1.0 m/s and the animals spent more time moving at slow speeds around the enrichment. Animals’ engagement with the enrichment also decreased over time. These results indicate that the presence of enrichment and people in, or around, the environment attracts the animals, influencing habitat use and movement patterns as a result. This work demonstrates the ability of the proposed framework for the quantification and persistent monitoring of bottlenose dolphins’ movement, and will enable new studies to investigate individual and group animal locomotion and behavior. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Cetaceans: Conservation, Health, and Welfare)
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Article
DNA Damage as a Potential Non-Invasive Indicator of Welfare: A Preliminary Study in Zoo-Housed Grizzly Bears (Ursus arctos horribilis)
J. Zool. Bot. Gard. 2021, 2(3), 316-334; https://doi.org/10.3390/jzbg2030022 - 25 Jun 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1891
Abstract
Measures of oxidative stress have potential for integrating positive and negative life experiences into comprehensive cellular indicators of animal welfare. We explored this possibility when three adult grizzly bear brothers at the Detroit Zoo were temporarily moved to a smaller habitat while their [...] Read more.
Measures of oxidative stress have potential for integrating positive and negative life experiences into comprehensive cellular indicators of animal welfare. We explored this possibility when three adult grizzly bear brothers at the Detroit Zoo were temporarily moved to a smaller habitat while their primary home was expanded. We expected that the spatial compression and construction activity might be sources of stress. We observed increased social play and other affiliative behavior in the smaller habitat, and we used daily fecal samples (17 to 24 per bear) to examine whether concentrations of fecal glucocorticoid metabolites (FGM) and 8-hydroxy-2′-deoxyguanosine (8-OHdG, a by-product of DNA damage) were correlated with social behavior. Our overall aim was to explore 8-OHdG as a potential indicator of welfare based on the prediction that 8-OHdG would be lower when more positive social interactions occurred. Concentrations of fecal 8-OHdG increased significantly with higher FGM concentrations, supporting a potential relationship between adrenal activity and rates of DNA damage. However, we found that on days when they engaged in higher rates of affiliative interactions, there were trends for 8-OHdG concentrations to increase for one bear and decrease for another, and no relationship for the third bear. These preliminary results should be interpreted with caution, but suggest a potential relationship between social behavior and 8-OHdG that is modulated by health, personality, or other individual factors. Further validation research is needed, but 8-OHdG may have promise as a non-invasive, cumulative indicator of animal welfare. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Recent Advances in the Science of Zoo and Aquarium Animal Welfare)
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