Captive Wild Animals And 24/7 Care
Zoos ostensibly serve a variety of goals, including conservation, research, and education, though most animal advocates look at them as places of captivity and a way that animals are used for public entertainment. Zoos often struggle and fail to provide adequate care, enrichment, and welfare, resulting in animal depression, illnesses, and deaths. With more cases of poor animal treatment being exposed in recent years, people’s negative perception of zoos has begun to outweigh any positive perception of zoos they may have had. This article shows how zoos could improve animal care to regain the public’s trust and, in the long run, achieve their more benevolent goals more effectively.
The article proposes a new approach to promoting zoo animal welfare: a welfare assessment tool based on 14 criteria. The authors suggest that, instead of relying on staff availability or always prioritizing visitor preferences, zoos should provide tailored care to animals 24/7 and across their lifespan. The authors recognize that zoos may sometimes face challenges including financial constraints. However, animal welfare benefits nearly all of zoos’ goals: enhancing research findings, delivering a better visitor experience, and improving people’s support for zoos. Ultimately, the article introduces an intelligent solution for addressing animal needs in zoos.
First, the authors revisit what “animal welfare” means in order to achieve it. Each animal has a unique set of needs based on its physiology and habits not only as a member of a species but also as an individual. Nocturnal animals should access food at night even if the staff is off duty. Animals should stay indoors or outdoors as they please. Shy animals should be able to hide from public view when they wish. During busier seasons, a creative setup, such as a one-way glass nesting box, could allow people to observe animals without the animals noticing. Overall, the key to animal welfare is designing a zoo environment that would give all animals a sense of control.
The 14 assessment criteria recommended for zoos are the following:
- Prolonged hunger
- Prolonged thirst
- Major injuries
- Pain from inappropriate management, handling, catching, or transport
- Appropriate food and species-typical food-seeking opportunities
- Comfort when animals are resting or sleeping
- Thermal comfort
- Space to move around freely
- Sense of control
- Good treatment in all situations
- Expression of normal, non-harmful, social behaviors
- Expression of other normal behaviors (exploring, problem-solving, etc.)
- Avoidance of negative emotions (fear, distress, frustration, etc.) and promotion of positive emotions (contentment, security, etc.)
This assessment should be used especially when an important change is occurring (e.g., seasonal change, change in care staff, the death of a companion).
This article shows how to improve the welfare of zoo animals, but the same criteria work for sanctuaries and wildlife centers. For animal advocates, this article presents a positive direction towards optimal welfare for captive animals, especially when there are legitimate reasons why the animals should be kept in captivity, such as in a sanctuary setting.