Animal Welfare Research: WelfareTrak®

WelfareTrak®: The Chicago Zoological Society strives to enhance the lives of each and every animal at the Brookfield Zoo. In fact, we are leading the way in efforts to create tools for monitoring and improving the welfare of all zoo animals.

In 2013, CZS launched WelfareTrak®, a web application that tracks zookeepers’ assessments of an animal’s physical, mental and emotional states. The system gives zookeepers the opportunity to complete brief surveys on a weekly basis and then generates reports that “flag” potential shifts in welfare status.

WelfareTrak® was designed by and for those who work directly with zoo animals. CZS consults with experts from the international zoological community to design unique surveys for each species. These surveys allow us to track welfare indicators such as a gorilla’s attitude, a gecko’s skin condition and a polar bear’s interest in its environment. We also collaborated with other zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) to test the WelfareTrak® system before its launch.

Currently, zoos from the U.S. and abroad are utilizing the tool to monitor a variety of mammal, reptile and bird species. Our users report that WelfareTrak® helps animal care staff proactively identify welfare issues, evaluate the success of efforts to improve welfare and gain insight into the needs of individual animals.

The information collected via WelfareTrak® can be integrated with both behavioral data and endocrine data for a more comprehensive, holistic view of an individual’s welfare. In the future, we expect that WelfareTrak® will be implemented at other types of animal care facilities including conservation centers, wildlife sanctuaries and shelters for companion animals.

To learn more about how WelfareTrak® allows experienced caretakers to become the “voices” for the animals under their care, please visit: https://www.welfaretrak.org.