News Release

May 23, 2013

Contact: Sondra Katzen
Public Relations

Animal Welfare Brings Researchers to Brookfield Zoo for International Symposium Hosted by the Chicago Zoological Society’s Center for the Science of Animal Welfare

     Brookfield, Ill. — International animal welfare researchers and specialists who care for animals are meeting June 5-6 at Brookfield Zoo, which is managed by the Chicago Zoological Society (CZS). The 2nd international symposium, “Zoo Animal Welfare: Innovations and Future Directions,” is organized by the CZS Center for the Science of Animal Welfare (CSAW).

CSAW is long regarded as a leader in advancing animal care by implementing innovative approaches to zoo animal management. Through research, study, and collaboration with international experts, the Society is able to contribute to the high quality of care that animals receive in zoos and aquariums around the world.

“As the modern zoo and aquarium continue to evolve, we must always explore areas of science and research that will help us to meet and expand our commitment to providing the best animal care practices,” said one of the symposium’s organizers, Jason Watters, Ph.D., director of animal behavior research for CZS. “The symposium will help lead to the development of a well-integrated, multidisciplinary approach to understanding animal welfare. We hope to identify best measures, assessment techniques, and animal care practices.”

Leading researchers from the zoo, farm, laboratory, and companion animal communities will discuss directions for future research, novel approaches and tools for monitoring welfare, and innovative training programs. More than 100 participants will participate in the two-day symposium at Brookfield Zoo. About 20 percent of attendees are international guests representing Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Colombia, England, the Netherlands, and Scotland.

The 2013 symposium will provide the groundwork for developing multi-institutional research programs for zoo and aquarium professionals. By promoting the exchange of information and fostering new relationships, the symposium is expected to impact the health, longevity, and well-being of individual animals living in zoos and aquariums.

“The symposium will provide us with the opportunity to exchange knowledge with researchers and scientists from around the world so that we can better understand and interpret how animal management practices impact the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of individual animals,” said Jessica Whitham, Ph.D., animal welfare biologist for CZS and co-organizer of the symposium.

Keynote speakers include Jason Watters, Ph.D., director of animal behavior research for CZS; Hannah Buchanan-Smith,Ph.D., professor of psychology at the University of Stirling, Scotland; Elizabeth Herrelko,Ph.D., David Bohnett cognitive research fellow at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo, Washington, D.C.; Terry Maple,Ph.D., affiliate professor of psychology at the Harriett Wilkes Honors College of Florida Atlantic University, Jupiter, Fla.; Cheryl Meehan, Ph.D., consultant at Vistalogic Inc. and research associate at U. of Calif., Davis; Emily Patterson-Kane, Ph.D., animal welfare scientist for the American Veterinary Medical Association; and James Serpell,Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.
Topics being discussed include:
  • Asking the Animals: Behavioral Assessment of Welfare State
  • Understanding Interactions Between Animal Personality and Welfare
  • Asking People About Animals: Using and Informing People’s Perceptions of Animal Welfare
  • Interacting with Animals: How Human-Animal Relationships Affect Animal Welfare
  • Meeting Animals’ Needs: Building and Reinventing Engaging Spaces

The Chicago Zoological Society previously hosted an international animal welfare symposium in 2008 to examine the progress and future of animal welfare knowledge. Following the symposium, observation software was developed to provide caretakers with a systematic approach to animal data collection.
Participants of this year’s symposium are also invited to attend a presymposium workshop offered on June 4 to learn how to use the new version of this observation software. The online system, known as WelfareTrak®, is a user-friendly monitoring tool that integrates the knowledge, skills, and expertise of animal caretakers. WelfareTrak® allows caretakers to complete brief online welfare surveys for individual animals on a weekly basis and generates reports that flag potential shifts in welfare status. The data collected will enhance the overall quality of life for animals in the care of zoos and aquariums.

            “The Chicago Zoological Society is committed to helping increase the scientific understanding of animal welfare,” said Bill Zeigler, senior vice president of animal collection and care for CZS. “Through the symposium, we hope to discover and implement innovative approaches to zoo animal management that will define how animals are cared for in the future.”

The symposium is supported in part by Wiley, Reynolds Polymer Technology, Inc., Guide by Cell, International Animal Exchange, Inc., DiamondBack Drugs, COST of Wisconsin Incorporated, and Mazuri.

            The Chicago Zoological Society inspires conservation leadership by connecting people with wildlife and nature. The Chicago Zoological Society is a private nonprofit organization that operates Brookfield Zoo on land owned by the Forest Preserve District of Cook County. The Society is known throughout the world for Brookfield Zoo's innovative, naturalistic, multispecies exhibits and for its international role in animal population management and wildlife conservation. For further information, visit