Captive Flamingos And Animal Welfare
Animal captivity can have a range of welfare implications, ranging from poor health due to a greatly reduced physical range, stress from exposure to visitors, boredom from lack of enrichment, and much more. Though we’ve looked at the effects of captivity on animals in zoos many times over the years, this marks the first time that we’ve ever covered a review of captive animal welfare for flamingos.
In this study, scientists sought to study flamingos, noting that most work on zoo animal welfare focuses on mammals, and there is a huge gap in literature for certain taxa. They note that flamingos are one of the most common (and numerous) captive held zoo birds, and that even though studies have looked at various aspects of flamingo behavior, “a baseline for good flamingo welfare is lacking.” Their hypothesis in this study was that flamingos would “show a preference for specific zones of the enclosure that allow all birds to gather together (e.g. for loafing, preening and nesting), and that use of the enclosure by the flock would change over the course of the day as well as with season.” They studied various captive flocks, with ages of individuals ranging from 1-60 years old.
What they found was that there were definite differences in the degree of activity between flamingo flocks, but the overall active/inactive time was the same (52%/48%). The general findings showed some similarity to wild time-activity budgets, however sleeping was more prominent. They found that the usage of the enclosures was “strongly influenced” by time of day, season, and climate, but seemed to be unaffected by the presence of visitors. The presence and placement of pools was very important, and they noted that “the enclosure with the largest pool to land ratio yielded the widest range in enclosure usage across the duration of these observations.”
The study goes a long way to establish some baseline measurements with which further research into captive flamingo welfare could be done. For captive animal advocates, this study should not be seen as conclusive, but rather a first step towards addressing the welfare and enrichment status of one of the most common zoo birds around the world.