The use of Qualitative Behavioural Assessment in zoo welfare measurement and animal husbandry change

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Year of Publication:
P. Rose, L. Riley
Journal of Zoo and Aquarium Research
, , , ,

Zoological institutions have come a long way over the past 20 years in their measurement and evaluation of animal behaviour and welfare. Environments that enable the performance of biologically relevant activity patterns, which increase behavioural diversity and ensure appetitive behaviours can be completed in full, are commonplace in zoos globally. The use of species-specific environmental enrichment (EE) techniques, where the effect of EE is evaluated and refined, further enhance the opportunities for species to experience positive welfare in zoos. What is still required is evaluation of the lasting effect of such husbandry and housing changes that provide meaningful long-term welfare improvements. To provide evidence for best practice management, benchmarks at a species-specific level are required that are comparable across husbandry and management regimes, as well as across environmental conditions in which captive populations occur. One such method for addressing individual-level welfare state is Qualitative Behavioural Assessment (QBA), an approach increasingly used in domestic animal industries to measure the individual’s perception of the situation it finds itself within. This paper provides an outline of the relevance of QBA to those working in the field of zoo animal husbandry to show how valid and objective measurements of welfare state can be taken of individuals living in zoos in a range of different situations. An evaluation of the current literature shows the depth and breadth of QBA application and the paper provides suggestions for future areas of research investigation and a practical usage in the zoo. It is shown how QBA can be used to target the application of EE to meet specific husbandry needs or promote key welfare-positive behaviour. The paper evaluates the relevance of positive challenge “eustress” to captive species and identifies areas for the wider application of QBA across captive population and institutions to further support the key aims of the modern zoo. The paper provides coverage of literature on QBA in the domestic animal field and attempts to apply these methods to a zoo-based example. The paper concludes by evaluating why zoos need to consider the results of qualitative, multi-institution studies and how the results of this can be utilised to improve husbandry and animal experiences in the zoo.


Back to Resources