On comparing the behaviour of zoo housed animals with wild conspecifics as a welfare indicator, using the giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis) as a model

To assess the validity of using wild behavioral data as a welfare indicator for zoo animals, the time budgets of 19 captive giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis), from four zoos were compared with the time budgets of wild giraffe from Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe. Differences were shown to exist between the behavior of wild and captive giraffe. However, only the duration of lying differed significantly across zoos. Correlations demonstrated that both enclosure size and feed restriction affected the locomotor activity of the giraffe. An attempt to quantify observer influence upon the behavior of the wild giraffe was made. Different methods of observation were shown to significantly affect the time budget established. The extent to which wild giraffe behaviour can be used as a welfare indicator for captive conspecifics is discussed, as are the problems inherent in such a study. The difficulties in constructing an alternative welfare measure using prevalence to veterinary problems, are briefly considered. Methods by which captive giraffe welfare can be improved are discussed, particularly concerning the provision of browse to allow more natural feeding patterns to be established.

Last Updated
January 27, 2021
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