The animal care experts at South Korea’s Seoul Grand Park Zoo have many capabilities at their disposal. They can analyze animal genes to confirm individual animals’ gender or species. (Sometimes it’s hard to tell which animals are which.) They can even study hormones to determine when animals are breeding or stressed by their surroundings.
Among all of these pieces of knowledge, though, there’s one that’s more important than all the others: sometimes you can accomplish even more by reaching out and making connections with others.
That’s why husbandry manager Sun-Duk Park and primate and reptile keeper Jeong-Kyun Lim spent several weeks at Brookfield Zoo in September and October, talking with our personnel and learning about various aspects of our animal care programs. The visit came about after the director of Seoul Grand Park Zoo initiated a program to upgrade the animal care facilities there to improve animal welfare.
Here at the Chicago Zoological Society, which manages Brookfield Zoo, we recently launched our own program, called the Center for the Science of Animal Well-Being, as a comprehensive approach to animal welfare. We are developing standards for how animals fare in zoos and aquariums. Through this program, we are combining our expertise in the disciplines of animal behavior, training, behavioral enrichment, nutrition, veterinary science, endocrinology, biology, and exhibit design. Our goal is to be the preeminent source of information about animal welfare, and we want to share our considerable expertise with others in the zoo world.
Indeed, Park and Lim received training in advanced techniques for all of these disciplines. Veterinarians and other hospital staff, keepers, curators, scientists, recordkeeping specialists, and nutritionists all met with the two to offer comprehensive instruction.
Park and Lim even interacted with a variety of animals, from lemurs to wood storks to bears. A diversity of animals is nothing new to them. Seoul Grand Park Zoo is the largest zoo in South Korea and boasts of around 2,400 animals. Lim in particular was satisfied, as his specialty is gibbons, pythons, and crocodiles, all of which are found at Brookfield Zoo.
The two hope to maintain future beneficial relations with the Society. Not only can we help them improve their skills, but every interaction we have with staff from other zoos will help us become the clearinghouse for issues on animal welfare.