The Science Behind Brookfield Zoo’s Animal Care and Welfare


Polar bear participating in a training session with animal care staff allowing bear to contribute to their own care (Photo: CZS)

Many people do not realize the amount of research that goes into taking care of the animals at the Brookfield Zoo. This includes not only conducting research to better understand the factors that lead to optimal welfare, but also the literature reviews that are completed by staff to stay current on best practices across the zoo and aquarium industry.

The Chicago Zoological Society that manages the Brookfield Zoo created the Center for the Science of Animal Care and Welfare in 2008. The Center promotes a unique, holistic, science-based approach to integrating professionals from a variety of disciplines including behavioral research, endocrinology, population biology, nutrition, and veterinary science, with the goal of assessing and optimizing welfare from an animal-centric perspective. The Center has a long-term vision of sustaining its role as a leader in the field of animal welfare through the application of results from research designed to improve the daily care of the animals.

Sloth eating sweat potatoes as part of a diet designed specifically to meet the nutrient requirements for that species. (Photo: CZS)

Next time you visit the Brookfield Zoo, take a closer look at the animals’ habitats. You might find everything from a nutritionally complete diet specifically designed for that species, to various forms of environmental enrichment created to allow animals to engage in behaviors they are motivated to perform.

Sloth bear pushing on a wobble tree to have food fall to the ground as part of their enrichment program. (Photo: CZS)

If you are lucky, you might get to witness a training session where our amazing animal care staff work with the animals to allow them to participate in their care. We hope having a better understanding of the science behind animal care and welfare at the Brookfield Zoo will allow you to better appreciate your next visit.

Written by Lance Miller, Ph.D., Vice President of Conservation Science and Animal Welfare Research, Chicago Zoological Society – Brookfield Zoo

Posted: 11/25/2019 1:45:35 PM by Sean Keeley

CZS & Brookfield Zoo

Since the opening of Brookfield Zoo in 1934, the Chicago Zoological Society has had an international reputation for taking a cutting-edge role in animal care and conservation of the natural world. Learn more about the animals, people, and research that make up CZS here at our blog.


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