Impacts of natural history and exhibit factors on carnivore welfare
Year of Publication:
|Lance J. Miller, Jamie A. Ivy, Greg A. Vicino, Ivana G. Schork
|Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science
|animal welfare, behavioral diversity, infant mortality, offspring production, pacing, reproductive success
To improve the welfare of nonhuman animals under professional care, zoological institutions are continuously utilizing new methods to identify factors that lead to optimal welfare. Comparative methods have historically been used in the field of evolutionary biology but are increasingly being applied in the field of animal welfare. In the current study, data were obtained from direct behavioral observation and institutional records representing 80 individual animals from 34 different species of the order Carnivora. Data were examined to determine if a variety of natural history and animal management factors impacted the welfare of animals in zoological institutions. Output variables indicating welfare status included behavioral diversity, pacing, offspring production, and infant mortality. Results suggested that generalist species have higher behavioral diversity and offspring production in zoos compared with their specialist counterparts. In addition, increased minimum distance from the public decreased pacing and increased offspring production, while increased maximum distance from the public and large enclosure size decreased infant mortality. These results have implications for future exhibit design or renovation, as well as management practices and priorities for future research.