Blog: Center for the Science of Animal Care and Welfare

We all play, why is it important?



At the Chicago Zoological Society – Brookfield Zoo, we’re very excited about play. Why is that you may ask? CZS will be hosting the Psychonomic Society 2016 Leading Edge Workshop on the evolutionary and psychological significance of play.  We’re working with the University of Southern Mississippi and the American Museum of Natural History in New York to bring sixteen worldwide experts on human play and animal play behavior together to create a framework and plan to answer important questions about play. Why is this so exciting? This will help move the diverse fields of animal behavior, animal welfare, anthropology, neuroscience, evolutionary biology and psychology forward to define play and its significance

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Play Behavior

Play behavior in itself is important for many reasons within a zoological setting.  From an animal welfare perspective, play is thought to be a positive indicator of animal welfare as play behavior is minimal or absent in poor environments.  Ensuring that animals have the opportunities to play and that all of their basic and advanced biological needs are met will help ensure each individual animal has the opportunity to thrive.  From a conservation education perspective, it is important because we know that young children learn through play.  The Chicago Zoological Society NatureStart model uses children’s innate curiosity about the natural world as a way to foster learning. By inviting children to explore and play in the natural world, they gain knowledge and skills, and become inspired to protect their planet and its inhabitants. Comparing and contrasting the current research from diverse disciplines to learn new information about play behavior from both the animal welfare and conservation education perspectives creates opportunities for research that can result in better programs for our guests and the animals in our care.

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This grant funded workshop aligns the Society’s two Centers of Excellence: the Center for the Science of Animal Care and Welfare and the Center of Conservation Leadership. Together, these centers are leading the way in scientific research and partnering with other accredited zoos, universities and conservation groups around the world to support conservation, education and animal welfare.

-  Lance Miller, Ph.D., Senior Director of Animal Welfare Research

Posted: 6/6/2016 4:18:25 PM by


Center for the Science of Animal Care and Welfare

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