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Evaluation of different observational sampling regimes for use in zoological parks

By S. W. Margulis, E. J. Westhus

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Observational sampling methods provide clearly-defined guidelines for collection and analysis of behavioral data. In some situations, use of formal sampling regimes may be impractical or impossible. A case in point is data collection conducted by animal care staff at zoological parks and aquaria. Often, time is sufficiently limited that data collection is perceived as a task that cannot be accomplished given the normal constraints of the day. Here, we explore the efficacy and validity of using more variable and abridged sampling regimes in an effort to identify the appropriateness of such observation schemes for systematic monitoring of behavior. We describe the results of studies on three species (two polar bears, an Atlantic bottlenose dolphin calf, and two brown bears), conducted over a period of several years at the Brookfield Zoo, Brookfield, Illinois, USA. Data collection schemes varied both within and across groups in order to provide a basis of comparison. In all cases, there were significant differences based on sampling regime for rare behaviors (those that individually comprised <15% of the activity budget), but not for common behaviors. Subsampling from larger data sets indicated that data reliability increases with increasing observation number. We discuss the strengths and weaknesses of such sporadic sampling methods, and suggest that, in many instances such limited data collection may yet yield an accurate picture of animal activity and should not be overlooked as a viable management tool.

Date 2008
Publication Title Applied Animal Behaviour Science
Volume 110
Issue 3/4
Pages 363-376
ISBN/ISSN 0168-1591
DOI 10.1016/j.applanim.2007.05.001
Author Address Chicago Zoological Society, 3300 Golf road, Brookfield, IL 60513,
Additional Language English
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal behavior
  2. Aquacultural and fisheries
  3. Aquatic organisms
  4. Bears
  5. Corn
  6. Developed countries
  7. Dolphins
  8. Illinois
  9. Mammals
  10. Marine mammals
  11. North America
  12. OECD countries
  13. peer-reviewed
  14. sampling
  15. United States of America
  16. Whales
  17. Zoo and captive wild animals
  18. Zoological gardens
  19. Zoos
  1. peer-reviewed