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Opportunity to Elevate Zoo Animal Welfare through Data Discovery

Dr Jake Veasey

Aug 12, 2023

Find out how data on daily travel distance could help transform captive animal welfare, and how you can help.

Space is widely perceived to be one of the biggest, and perhaps most insurmountable issues in terms of captive animal welfare, but what is it about space that matters?

Our research has led us to focus on the issue of intentional travel, and as part of our continuing work in this area, we are seeking data on daily travel distances in captivity across a range of species.We know captive animals rarely range as far as their wild counterparts, but what is less clear, is whether they locomote (walk, swim, brachiate, fly etc) as far each day in captivity as they do in the wild. We know for example, that surprisingly, despite significant habitat compression, some captive elephants and tigers might walk as far each day as their wild counterparts, though for tigers, much of this is in the form of pacing.

The reason this data is critical in establishing welfare optimising solutions is it helps us determine what it is about captivity that impacts this important component of the lives of animals – our research suggests it’s not the biomechanics of travel that captivity typically limits, but rather the cognitive and behavioural opportunities directly associated with travel in the wild that tend to be lacking, but we need more data to help clarify this point across a range of species.Unfortunately, for most species, information on daily travel distance in captivity is lacking in the published literature. However, it’s possible, this information can be extracted from previous research or data you might have access to. For example, you might have activity budgets, studies on pacing, or even data from activity monitoring devices from which we can estimate travel distances in captive wild animals based on species typical travel speeds.

If you think you have might have this information, or be aware of sources, regardless of the species, please reach out. Also, if you are a student, or have students looking to undertake useful research at your zoo, please reach out to us and we’ll provide some guidance on how to gather the information.Whilst we are interested in data on all species, we are particularly keen to gather information on Sumatran and Amur tigers, Orangutan, polar bears and African lions.

Please re-share this post with anyone you think might be able to help, and if you think you might be able to contribute data to this important work directly, connect with us on, with Daily Travel Distance marked as the subject.

Thanks for your interest and support!#AnimalWelfare #zoos #sanctuaries #CareForTheRare

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