The Link Between Animal Welfare and Conservation

Recently, our Animal Welfare Research team provided an overview of how we monitor – and continually strive to enhance – the mental, physical and emotional health of individual animals. Aside from the fact that each and every animal deserves the opportunity to thrive, it is crucial to remember many of Brookfield Zoo’s residents represent threatened and endangered species. Our job as welfare scientists is to promote the conservation of these species by ensuring that individual animals experience the best possible quality of life.

How can a focus on individual animal welfare impact conservation initiatives? In order to maintain sustainable populations, the individual members of a given species should live long, healthy and fulfilling lives. Indeed, we have learned animals who exhibit signs of good welfare are more likely to display a wide range of species-typical behaviors, have better immune function, reproduce successfully and express appropriate parental behaviors.

Fortunately, we can enhance an animal’s welfare by focusing on its needs and preferences. Does this individual prefer certain enclosures? Does this animal enjoy being challenged and given control over his/her environment? Which enrichment devices, objects, and activities seem to pique this individual’s interest? To determine the answers to these questions, we regularly monitor behavioral and physiological welfare indicators and can evaluate whether we are providing the most suitable, stimulating, and enriching environment possible. If necessary, we can make changes to an animal’s enclosure or routine and then track welfare indicators to evaluate the success of these interventions.

Finally, we have learned when an animal is flourishing, they may become a wonderful ambassador for their wild counterparts. Our research shows our guests feel more connected with animals who are expressing signs of good welfare and may even be inspired to take action by engaging in conservation behaviors (e.g. recycling, adopting energy-saving practices, conserving water). In fact, our guests have expressed - through visitor surveys - that animal welfare is a top priority.

So, when Brookfield Zoo’s residents are able to live long, rewarding, and healthy lives, both the individual animals and the species benefit! Thank you for continuing to support our animal welfare and conservation programs!

Written by Jessica Whitman, Animal Welfare Biologist, Brookfield Zoo

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Posted: 1/27/2021 10:59:13 AM 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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