Survey of U.S. zoo and aquarium animal care staff attitudes regarding humane euthanasia for population management

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Year of Publication:
David M. Powell, Matthew Ardaiolo
Zoo Biology
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The humane euthanasia of animals for population management, or culling, has been suggested as one possible tool for managing animal populations for sustainability, and recent, highly publicized euthanasia of zoo animals in Copenhagen has stimulated global conversation about population management in zoos. We conducted a nationwide survey of U.S. zoo and aquarium personnel, including keepers, managers, and leaders of AZA animal programs, to assess their overall attitudes regarding population management euthanasia. The surveyed populations were generally very aware of the concept of population management euthanasia. Managers and animal program leaders were more supportive of euthanasia than keepers. We found that regardless of role, men were more supportive of euthanasia than women. Those personnel who were aware of instances of population management euthanasia at their institutions before were more supportive of it than those who were not. Support for culling varied with the kind of animal being considered for it, with three general taxon acceptability groupings emerging. Education, tenure in the profession, taxonomic expertise, and whether or not the responder took the survey before or after the Copenhagen events were not strong predictors of attitudes. Overall, the surveyed populations were approximately evenly split in terms of being in favor of euthanasia, not supporting euthanasia, or being unsure. Most responders indicated that they would be more likely to accept culling if more information was provided on its rationale. These results will form the basis for further discussions on the role of humane euthanasia for population management. Zoo Biol. 35:187–200, 2016. © 2016 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.


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