Behaviour of Zoo-Housed Red Pandas (Ailurus fulgens): A Case-Study Testing the Behavioural Variety Index

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Year of Publication:
Caterina Spiezio, Mariangela Altamura, Janno Weerman, Barbara Regaiolli
Journal of Zoological and Botanical Gardens
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The red panda is listed as “endangered” in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, due to the rapid population decline. Improving our knowledge on the red panda biology and ethology is necessary to enhance its husbandry and breeding in zoos. Behavioural variety, intended as the presence of a wide array of species-specific behaviour, has been considered a positive welfare index in zoo-housed animals. The aim of this study was to describe the behaviour of two pairs of zoo-housed red pandas, one of them with an offspring, and to investigate the behavioural variability using the Behavioural Variety Index (BVI). Behavioural data from two zoo-living male–female pairs were collected. A continuous focal animal sampling method was used to collect individual and social behaviours of the two pairs. Forty-eight 30 min sessions per subject were carried out. For the BVI, a list of species-specific behaviours previously reported in the red panda was prepared and compared with the behavioural repertoire of the subjects of the study. First, species-specific behaviours were recorded, and no abnormal behaviour was reported. The percentages of time spent on different activities (e.g., routine behaviours, exploratory/territorial behaviours, consumption behaviours, locomotive behaviours, social behaviours, maternal behaviours) were similar to time budgets reported in the red panda, with routine behaviours (resting, comfort and vigilance) being the most performed in both pairs. Moreover, the BVI suggested that each red panda performed on average 73% of the behaviours described in previous literature on this species. In conclusion, studying the behavioural variety of red pandas in zoos can be a useful tool for assessing their welfare as well as improving our knowledge on the behavioural repertoire of a species that is difficult to observe in the wild.


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