Animal welfare in zoos

zoo_animals_SHblogAuthor Dr Sonya P. Hill


When did you last visit a zoo? Perhaps it was in your childhood, or more recently? You might have seen a range of enclosure styles, such as large naturalistic habitats, designed to provide animals with a wide range of choices and opportunities to access resources that are important to them, or more old-fashioned, ‘traditional’ zoo enclosures, with very unnatural-looking features, few retreat areas for the animals, and limited space. What can we infer about an animal’s welfare from looking at its enclosure and the resources provided? What other, animal-based indicators do we need to use when assessing welfare scientifically in zoos, and what kinds of challenges do we need to overcome in order to do so?

In my research, I use an evidence-based approach to investigate the welfare of a range of zoo-housed species, with the goal of continuous improvement. Responsible zoos should be providing the best possible conditions for the animals living there, as well as making meaningful contributions to conservation efforts in the wild and providing a good visitor experience; the welfare of zoo animals impacts on both of these areas as well. Some of my work focuses on the assessment of targeted housing and husbandry techniques, aimed at providing animals with appropriate resources, behavioural opportunities, choices and complexity.

You can find out more about my work HERE.