CZAAWE Resource Article

Animal Welfare in Conservation Breeding: Applications and Challenges
Publication Type 
Journal Article
Year of publication 
2018
Publication/Journal 
Frontiers in Veterinary Science
ISBN 
2297-1769
Abstract 
Animal welfare and conservation breeding have overlapping and compatible goals that are occasionally divergent. Efforts to improve enclosures, provide enriching experiences, and address behavioral and physical needs further the causes of animal welfare in all zoo settings. However, by mitigating stress, increasing behavioral competence, and enhancing reproduction, health, and survival, conservation breeding programs must also focus on preparing animals for release into the wild. Therefore conservation breeding facilities must strike a balance of promoting high welfare, while minimizing the effects of captivity to increase population sustainability. As part of the Hawaii Endangered Bird Conservation Program, San Diego Zoo Global operates two captive breeding facilities that house a number of endangered Hawaiian bird species. At our facilities we aim to increase captive animal welfare through husbandry, nutrition, behavior-based enrichment, and integrated veterinary practices. These efforts help foster a captive environment that promotes the development of species-typical behaviors. By using the “Opportunities to Thrive” guiding principles, we outline an outcome-based welfare strategy, and detail some of the related management inputs, such as transitioning to parental rearing, and conducting veterinary exams remotely. Throughout we highlight our evidence-based approach for evaluating our practices, by monitoring welfare and the effectiveness of our inputs. Additionally we focus on some of the unique challenges associated with improving welfare in conservation breeding facilitates and outline concrete future steps for improving and evaluating welfare outcomes that also meet conservation goals.