Zoo Animals: How Actual Zoological Institutions Assess, Ensure, and Promote Their Animals’ Welfare?

A special issue of Animals (ISSN 2076-2615). This special issue belongs to the section "Zoo Animals".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 15 July 2024 | Viewed by 6930

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Guest Editor
Ecole Nationale Vétérinaire de Toulouse, 23 Chemin des Capelles, Toulouse, France
Interests: ethology; cognition; phenomenology; animal welfare; human-animal relations; marine mammals
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Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Zoological institutions communicate on their efforts to ensure a high quality of life for the animals under their care. They also communicate on their actions to assess, maintain, and promote animal welfare and their involvement in conservation projects. Assessing animal welfare requires studying the individuals’ physiology, behaviors, and cognitions. Many institutions set up their own evaluation grids, implement enrichment programs, and ask their animal professionals to gain special training on animal behavior and welfare.

Many scientific projects on zoo animal behaviors, cognition, emotions, and welfare are conducted in zoological parks, along with scientific inquiries on the relationship between the caregivers and the animals they work with and on the interactions between visitors and animals. This Special Issue aims to give an update on what is happening today in modern zoos in terms of animal studies, animal welfare, human–animal relationships and interactions, and conservation programs.

We invite original research papers and reviews or studies focused on but not limited to: the behavioral, physiological, and cognitive aspects of animals under human care, the enrichment methods contributing to the welfare of these animals, novel methods used to improve the life in zoos, and the role of zoos in conservation.

Dr. Fabienne Delfour
Guest Editor

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Keywords

  • zoo
  • behavior
  • enrichment
  • captivity
  • stressors
  • welfare of animals in captivity
  • restricted mobility
  • effects of stressors on animal behaviour
  • non-living sources of stress, captivity-specific stressors
  • socialisation
  • social interaction

Published Papers (5 papers)

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Research

18 pages, 2079 KiB  
Article
Validating a Non-Invasive Method for Assessing Cortisol Concentrations in Scraped Epidermal Skin from Common Bottlenose Dolphins and Belugas
by Clara Agustí, Xavier Manteca, Daniel García-Párraga and Oriol Tallo-Parra
Animals 2024, 14(9), 1377; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani14091377 - 3 May 2024
Viewed by 1125
Abstract
Society is showing a growing concern about the welfare of cetaceans in captivity as well as cetaceans in the wild threatened by anthropogenic disturbances. The study of the physiological stress response is increasingly being used to address cetacean conservation and welfare issues. Within [...] Read more.
Society is showing a growing concern about the welfare of cetaceans in captivity as well as cetaceans in the wild threatened by anthropogenic disturbances. The study of the physiological stress response is increasingly being used to address cetacean conservation and welfare issues. Within it, a newly described technique of extracting cortisol from epidermal desquamation may serve as a non-invasive, more integrated measure of a cetacean’s stress response and welfare. However, confounding factors are common when measuring glucocorticoid hormones. In this study, we validated a steroid hormone extraction protocol and the use of a commercial enzyme immunoassay (EIA) test to measure cortisol concentrations in common bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) and beluga (Delphinapterus leucas) epidermal samples. Moreover, we examined the effect of sample mass and body location on cortisol concentrations. Validation tests (i.e., assay specificity, accuracy, precision, and sensitivity) suggested that the method was suitable for the quantification of cortisol concentrations. Cortisol was extracted from small samples (0.01 g), but the amount of cortisol detected and the variability between duplicate extractions increased as the sample mass decreased. In common bottlenose dolphins, epidermal skin cortisol concentrations did not vary significantly across body locations while there was a significant effect of the individual. Overall, we present a contribution towards advancing and standardizing epidermis hormone assessments in cetaceans. Full article
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15 pages, 1044 KiB  
Article
Social Network Analysis as a Tool in the Care and Wellbeing of Zoo Animals: A Case Study of a Family Group of Black Lemurs (Eulemur macaco)
by Max Norman, Cassie Jones, Kara Watson and Renato L. Previdelli
Animals 2023, 13(22), 3501; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani13223501 - 13 Nov 2023
Viewed by 1150
Abstract
Social network analysis (SNA) is an increasingly utilised technique in the literature examining the social structures and organisation of animals and understanding the bonds between groups and individuals. Using a case study as an illustration, the applications of SNA are explored, including the [...] Read more.
Social network analysis (SNA) is an increasingly utilised technique in the literature examining the social structures and organisation of animals and understanding the bonds between groups and individuals. Using a case study as an illustration, the applications of SNA are explored, including the identification of dominance hierarchies and detection of sources of social pressure, with a particular focus on the applications of SNA to holistic assessments of animal welfare alongside other methods. Based on the examination of social dynamics in a family group of four black lemurs (Eulemur macaco), a primate whose social organisation is characterised by patterns of female dominance, it is demonstrated that SNA can be used to examine the affiliative and agonistic interactions between individuals living in human care. SNA showed species-typical forms of female dominance that were largely directed towards the two males, characterised by the initiation of aggressive interactions and male submission. More intricate relationships and consistent social roles across networks were revealed through the examination of SNA. It is concluded that SNA has wide-ranging benefits in the assessment of effects of environmental changes, such as informing social management decisions, developing enrichment and intervention programs, and guiding overall improvements to the housing and care of individual animals. SNA, as part of an animal welfare toolbox, could, therefore, be a pivotal technique for modern animal welfare assessment that considers individual animals and their social lives. By sharing a case study of the technique in use, it is hoped that animal collections may adopt similar modern and evidence-based assessment methods. Full article
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13 pages, 249 KiB  
Article
Effects of Age and Season on Blood Parameters of Captive Giant Pandas: A Pilot Study
by Ruijie Jiang, Xinyi Zhang, Maohua Xia, Sufen Zhao, Yunsheng Wang, Tianchun Pu, Chenglin Zhang, Zhong Wu, Haihong Xu and Kai Fan
Animals 2023, 13(19), 3023; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani13193023 - 26 Sep 2023
Viewed by 879
Abstract
The giant panda, Ailuropoda melanoleuca, serves as a flagship species for biodiversity conservation, embodying the intersection of ecological, evolutionary, and anthropogenic forces shaping the natural world. Hematological parameters serve as crucial indicators for assessing the physiological status of animals. However, our understanding [...] Read more.
The giant panda, Ailuropoda melanoleuca, serves as a flagship species for biodiversity conservation, embodying the intersection of ecological, evolutionary, and anthropogenic forces shaping the natural world. Hematological parameters serve as crucial indicators for assessing the physiological status of animals. However, our understanding of blood parameters and hemorheology in captive giant pandas under non-anesthetic conditions is limited. In this study, from September 2018 to August 2020, we collected blood samples from captive giant pandas under non-anesthetic conditions. Twelve captive giant pandas, ranging in age from 2 to 28 years, were divided into three groups based on their age, and the variations in basic blood parameters and hemorheological parameters across four seasons were analyzed. This provided baseline data for future blood sample comparisons in non-anesthetized captive giant pandas. Additionally, we observed seasonal changes in hematological morphology, hemorheology, and serum enzymes. Moreover, seasonality had a regulatory effect on hemorheological parameters and negatively impacted blood viscosity. Age influenced changes in serum enzymes, serum protein content, and serum metabolites, indicating differences in overall metabolic processes among giant pandas of different age groups. Whether factors such as season and climate contribute to environmental stress in captive giant pandas requires further investigation. The findings of this study may help to protect the stability of the giant panda population better and provide a reference for the medical care of captive giant pandas. Full article
27 pages, 1614 KiB  
Article
Responses to Reduced Feeding Frequency in Captive-Born Cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus): Implications for Behavioural and Physiological Stress and Gastrointestinal Health
by Kelsey Lee Brown, André Ganswindt, Gerhard Steenkamp and Adrian Stephen Wolferstan Tordiffe
Animals 2023, 13(17), 2783; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani13172783 - 31 Aug 2023
Viewed by 1612
Abstract
Unnatural diet composition and frequent feeding regimes may play an aetiological role in the multiple diseases prevalent in captive cheetahs. This study investigated the responses of captive-born (hand-reared) cheetahs (n = 6) to a reduced feeding frequency schedule distinguished by offering larger [...] Read more.
Unnatural diet composition and frequent feeding regimes may play an aetiological role in the multiple diseases prevalent in captive cheetahs. This study investigated the responses of captive-born (hand-reared) cheetahs (n = 6) to a reduced feeding frequency schedule distinguished by offering larger quantities of food less frequently. The study cheetahs were fed four once-daily meals per week during the 3-week treatment period, followed by a 3-week control period in which they were fed two daily rations six days a week. Total weekly food intake was maintained throughout the study. Variations in behaviour, faecal consistency score (FCS), and faecal glucocorticoid metabolite concentration were measured. Less frequent feeding resulted in higher FCS (p < 0.01) and locomotory behaviour (p < 0.05) among the studied cheetahs. Faecal glucocorticoid metabolite concentration demonstrated an initial acute stress response to the change in feeding frequency (p < 0.05) and subsequent adaptation. The results of the FCS analysis suggest that the more natural feeding pattern could have benefited the studied cheetahs’ gastrointestinal health without a significant behavioural or physiological stress response overall to the change in feeding frequency. Full article
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8 pages, 1017 KiB  
Communication
Olfactory Enrichment in Hoary Foxes (Lycalopex vetulus LUND 1842): A Case Study
by Milene de Paula Figueira, Ita de Oliveira e Silva and Vanner Boere
Animals 2023, 13(9), 1530; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani13091530 - 3 May 2023
Viewed by 1201
Abstract
We have tested a method of olfactory environmental enrichment in hoary foxes used in other wild canids in captivity. The individuals were exposed to four olfactory stimuli (meat, mouse urine, cheese, and egg) that were wrapped in cotton bags outside the enclosures at [...] Read more.
We have tested a method of olfactory environmental enrichment in hoary foxes used in other wild canids in captivity. The individuals were exposed to four olfactory stimuli (meat, mouse urine, cheese, and egg) that were wrapped in cotton bags outside the enclosures at the zoo for five minutes. Behavioral observations were performed using the focal animal method, and all occurrences were recorded. The pre-exposure phase (Basal), exposure phase (Exp), and post-exposure phase and Basal phase (Pos) were analyzed for a period of five minutes. Behavioral responses were categorized as positive, negative, or other. Positive behavior tended to increase (p = 0.07) from the Basal phase to the Exp phase, but there was no statistical difference (p = 0.31) between the phases. Negative and other behavior did not differ statistically from the Basal phase to the Exp phase (N−, p = 0.32; Ot, p = 0.35) or Basal to the Pos phase (N−, p = 0.18; Ot, p = 0.92). The odors used seemed to elicit positive behavior weakly. Negative behavior was stable for the hoary foxes. The method failed to improve the hoary foxes’ welfare. Because their natural diet is based on insects and fruits, it is suggested that the stimuli used in this study have no appetitive value for hoary foxes. The method used with the same olfactory stimuli that were successful in other canid species is unsuitable for hoary foxes. Full article
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Planned Papers

The below list represents only planned manuscripts. Some of these manuscripts have not been received by the Editorial Office yet. Papers submitted to MDPI journals are subject to peer-review.

Title: The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland's approach to assessing and promoting animal welfare in collaboration with Universities.
Authors: Kristine Gandia (corresponding author); Sharon Kessler; Jo Elliot; Simon Girling; and Hannah M. Buchanan-Smith
Affiliation: 1 Psychology, Faculty of Natural Sciences, University of Stirling, Stirling, FK9 4LA, Scotland 2 The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, Edinburgh Zoo, 134 Corstorphine Road Edinburgh, EH12 6TS
Abstract: All good zoos have animal welfare assessment policies and practices in place to promote their animals’ welfare, 24/7 across the lifespan. In this paper, we describe the range of approaches that The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland’s (RZSS) Edinburgh Zoo and Highland Wildlife Park take to provide conditions for animals to thrive in captivity, in collaboration with Universities. We describe the governance and philosophical stance that RZSS takes (e.g. on ethical decision making), their policies (e.g. whistleblowing, euthanasia, hand-rearing), veterinary facilities and preventive care, enrichment protocols, staff training etc. In collaboration with Universities a wide range of research is conducted, including in two Public Engagement with Science Research facilities, where researchers are able to record the behaviour and test the cognitive abilities of individual primates, with strict protocols to safeguard welfare. Other collaborations with Universities include research that maps well to the Five Domains model of animal welfare, including on circadian rhythms, effects of environment, mixed-species groups, enrichment, nutrition, and veterinary research. We use a wide range of methodologies from social network analyses, enclosure use, behaviour, vocalisations, visitor effects, thermo-imaging, veterinary and physiological data and reproductive parameters. Assessing the whole collection of animals systematically is challenging given the wide range of species, number of animals, and the time and resource commitment in terms of creation and analysis of data. None-the-less, the University of Stirling has collaborated closely with the RZSS to make their welfare assessment tool for the whole animal collection more efficient and reliable, and to provide a quantitative evidence base for key individuals or groups that require in depth behavioural data to understand what type of intervention might be appropriate. It is concluded that zoos should work together to streamline and share behavioural projects (e.g. generic ethograms in the data collection software ZooMonitor) to provide a broader understanding of “baseline” behaviours in captivity, across the 24 hour day and seasons, life stages and in relation to a range of housing and husbandry practices.

Title: Acoustic Behavior of Rehabilitated Cetaceans: Progress and Challenges
Authors: Giardino, Gisela; Cosentino, Mel; Juan Pablo Loureiro; Sergio Rodriguez Heredia; Karina Alvarez; Sergio Moron; Alejandro Saubidet; Adrian Faiella; Javier Olguin; Ricardo Bastida; Giuseppa Buscaino; Diego Rodriguez
Affiliation: 1 Instituto de Investigaciones Marinas y Costeras (IIMyC), FCEyN, Universidad Nacional de Mar del Plata-CONICET, Mar del Plata, 7600 , Argentina. 2 Section for Marine Mammal Research, Department of Ecoscience, Aarhus University, 4000, Roskilde, Denmark 3 Fundación Mundo Marino.Mundo Marino. San Clemente del Tuyú, Argentina. 4 Aquarium Mar del Plata, Dolphin discovery, Argentina.
Abstract: Passive acoustics is an underexplored research area in our region but widely used globally, serving as a powerful tool to understand fundamental aspects of cetaceans that are difficult to observe in open water. This work is part of a long-term project aimed at obtaining a sound database of cetaceans from the Argentine Sea undergoing rehabilitation, with the goal of understanding how sound emission varies between healthy and sick animals. This sound baseline seeks to be utilized as a tool in animal welfare diagnosis. In this study, we present the initial results obtained, as well as the progress and challenges faced. Using passive acoustic monitoring with self-contained hydrophones and automated detectors (FPODs), we have recorded five cetacean species undergoing rehabilitation, both at the Rehabilitation Center of the Mundo Marino Foundation (San Clemente del Tuyú, Argentina) and at Aquarium Mar del Plata (Mar del Plata, Argentina). We have documented the sounds of the common dolphin (Delphinus delphis) from the Southwest Atlantic, confirming the presence of characteristic whistles in the terminal stage of life. For the first time, we have recorded the sound behavior of a Burmeister's porpoise (Phocoena dioptrica), showing exclusive production of pulsed signals, similar to other known porpoises, as well as the sound behavior of a Burmeister's porpoise (Phocoena spinipinnis) in rehabilitation, with signals associated with feeding. Additionally, we have continuously recorded two neonates and one juvenile franciscana dolphin (Pontoporia blainvillei), as well as a dwarf minke whale (Balaenoptera acutorostrata subsp). These records serve not only to enhance our understanding of cetacean acoustics but also underscore the critical role of rehabilitation centers in both conservation efforts and scientific research. Collaboration with such centers provides invaluable opportunities to study cetaceans in controlled environments, offering insights into their behavior, communication, and welfare.

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