Recent Studies in Reptile and Amphibian Welfare: Some Relevant Publications for the Zoo Herpetologist

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Year of Publication:
Robert W. Mendyk
Herpetological Review
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Animal welfare has become a major driving force behind the operations and management of accredited zoos and aquariums, with institutions across the globe committed to structured approaches to assessing and managing the wellbeing of animals in their care (Mellor et al. 2015). Although much of the focus on animal welfare in zoological parks historically has centered on just a handful of taxa, particularly high-profile mammalian species such as elephants, primates, large carnivores and cetaceans (e.g., Goulart et al. 2009; Melfi 2009; Maple and Perdue 2013), other taxonomic groups including reptiles and amphibians have received increased attention and resources aligned with their welfare in recent years. Today, animal welfare programs factor heavily into the captive management of reptiles and amphibians at many zoological parks, incorporating enrichment and behavioral husbandry initiatives and periodic welfare assessments that seek to optimize the wellbeing of captives and promote more evidencebased approaches to their care. Our collective understanding of reptile and amphibian welfare has advanced considerably over the past three decades, and now encompasses many different fields of inquiry including, but not limited to ecology, ethology, cognition and learning, physiology, captive husbandry, and veterinary medicine. Laying the essential groundwork for the body of research that has focused on reptile and amphibian welfare to date, Warwick, Frye, and Murphy’s Health and Welfare of Captive Reptiles (Warwick et al. 1995) was the first major work to tackle the subject of welfare in captive reptiles. Covering many important topics including physiology and functional anatomy (Lillywhite and Gatten 1995), immunology (Guillette et al. 1995), nutrition (Frye 1995), veterinary medicine (Cooper and Williams 1995), behavior (Gillingham 1995; Chiszar et al. 1995; Greenberg 1995; Warwick 1995), ontogeny (Burghart and Layne 1995), and others (Arena and Warwick 1995), it has played an important role in shaping the field and remains a valuable resource today, more than a quarter century later. Zoo herpetologists, veterinarians and animal welfare scientists may be pleased to learn that a muchanticipated second edition of this compendium is is slated for publication in early 2022 (Warwick et al., in press).


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