BASIC CONSIDERATIONS FOR THE WELFARE OF WILD ANIMALS IN CAPTIVITY.
When considering the wellbeing of wild animals in captivity there are five criteria by which we judge the acceptability of the care and related. The criteria are based on the standards set by the British & Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums and the European Association of Zoos and Aquariums. It is imperative that the custodian(s) or the animals adhere to basic wellbeing practices which meet the needs of the animals for whom they are responsible by understanding what is good welfare and by providing appropriate housing, care and husbandry.
The factors we primarily consider are:
All animals, at all times, must be provided first rate medical care by qualified veterinary professionals to enable them to remain at peak physical health with quick and professional diagnosis and treatment when required.
A critical part of maintaining good physical health is a correct, balanced and appropriate diet which prevents nutritional deficiencies whilst supporting the animals immune system.
Equally as important as the animals physical health is its mental health. Other than ongoing physical health issues there are a number of things facing animals in captivity that can impact on their mental health including space, social life, environment, carers, visitor interaction and more.
An animal’s physical behaviour can indicate its underlying psychological wellbeing. It is imperative that the custodian of the animal has access to professionals with experience and knowledge of a particular species in order to identify welfare concerns through behaviour abnormalities.
Support of veterinarians may also reflect mental well-being, for example in times of stress a hormone called cortisol is secreted, which can be measured in an animal’s urine or faeces.
It is imperative that custodians of wild animals keep animals in social groups as they would experience in the wild and provide animals with natural access to others of their species. This practice is essential to maintaining good mental health. Solitary confinement is damaging to most species.
All animals in captivity must have access to sufficient amounts of space to satisfy their behavioural and physical needs. In addition to the correct amount of three dimensional space recent studies have shown that complexity, variety, challenge, and options within enclosures can be just as important as physical space.
The enclosure must not permit the interaction of spectators in any way which can be detrimental to the animal i.e. feeding inappropriate food, distressing the animal.
The mental and physical stimulation of animals in captivity is beneficial to the overall wellbeing of animals. This may involve changes made within the area of confinement, provision of ‘toys’, encouragement of foraging for food, etc.