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Limitations and challenges of adapting subjective keeper questionnaires to non-Western sanctuary settings

By Lauren M. Robinson, Brian Crudge, Thona Lim, Vichet Roth, Marieke Gartner, Kristina Naden, Kirsty Officer, Kris Descovich

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In the past decade, there has been substantial growth in the number of animal personality studies published, however relatively little work has been conducted on different species of bears. Personality structure can provide insight into individual differences in behavioural responses, and in the context of captive management, may be valuable for improving welfare through individualised monitoring and care. The goal of this study was to assess the relationship between personality and welfare in Asiatic black bears (‘moon bear’, Ursus thibetanus) and sun bears (Helarctos malayanus). In collaboration with bear behaviour specialists, we adapted existing personality, subjective well-being, and welfare surveys originally designed for other captive mammal species to be appropriate and specific for bears. Surveys were written in English and translated to Khmer, with backtranslation checked for retention of the original meaning. The surveys were delivered verbally to 16 experienced bear keepers working within a bear rescue centre in Cambodia. In total, 36 Asiatic black bears and 41 sun bears were rated. Each bear was assessed by two keepers who were familiar with the individual animal. Although this approach has been successfully used with an array of captive species, in the current study, observer agreement was found to be very low as determined by intraclass correlations of rating scores. Because of this, we were unable to determine the personality structures in these species and thus could not examine the relationship between personality and welfare. The cause of this low agreement is unclear however in this paper we discuss potential cross-cultural or logistical reasons, and suggest that future studies using questionnaires to assess animal personality, welfare, or subjective well-being may benefit from consideration of these challenges in their study design.

Publication Title Applied Animal Behaviour Science
Volume 251
Pages 105627
ISBN/ISSN 0168-1591
DOI 10.1016/j.applanim.2022.105627
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Anthrozoology
  2. Behavior and behavior mechanisms
  3. Captivity
  4. Personality
  5. Rehabilitation
  6. rescue
  7. temperament