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Behavioral ecology of captive species: using behavioral adaptations to assess and enhance welfare of nonhuman zoo animals

By P. Koene

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This project aimed to estimate a species' adaptations in nature and in captivity, assess welfare, suggest environmental changes, and find species characteristics that underlie welfare problems in nonhuman animals in the zoo. First, the current status of zoo animal welfare assessment was reviewed, and the behavioral ecology approach was outlined. In this approach, databases of species characteristics were developed using (a) literature of natural behavior and (b) captive behavior. Species characteristics were grouped in 8 functional behavioral ecological fitness-related categories: space, time, metabolic, safety, reproductive, comfort, social, and information adaptations. Assessments of the strength of behavioral adaptations in relation to environmental demands were made based on the results available from the literature. The databases with literature at the species level were coupled with databases of (c) behavioral observations and (d) welfare assessments under captive conditions. Observation and welfare assessment methods were adapted from the animal on the farm realm and applied to zoo species. It was expected that the comparison of the repertoire of behaviors in natural and captive environments would highlight welfare problems, provide solutions to welfare problems by environmental changes, and identify species characteristics underlying zoo animal welfare problems.

Publication Title Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science
Volume 16
Issue 4
Pages 360-380
ISBN/ISSN 1088-8705
Publisher Taylor & Francis
DOI 10.1080/10888705.2013.827917
Language English
Author Address Wageningen UR Livestock Research, Wageningen Centre for Animal Welfare and Adaptation (CAWA), Wageningen University and Research Center, De Elst 1, 6708 WD Wageningen,
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal ecology
  2. Animals
  3. Animal welfare
  4. Data collection
  5. Documentation
  6. Ecology
  7. peer-reviewed
  8. safety
  9. Zoo and captive wild animals
  1. peer-reviewed