Health & Welfare Project

Project lead: Dr Fay Clark

Why are we carrying out health and welfare research?

In the past, zoos and aquariums were places where animals were ‘displayed’ for the pleasure of visitors. Today, we recognise that zoos and aquariums must be centres for animal welfare, in line with the Animal Welfare Strategy of the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA).

As a major global zoological society operating two UK zoos, Bristol Zoological Society is committed to the highest standards of animal care and welfare. Bristol Zoo is the fifth oldest zoo in the world, and has therefore significantly contributed to advancements in zoological management and breeding over the last 180 years. We believe that health and welfare enhancements should be evidence-based: as scientific knowledge about animals grows, this must be consistently applied.

What health and welfare expertise does Bristol Zoological Society have?

We have a permanent animal welfare scientist situated within the Field Conservation & Science department, who oversees welfare assessments and environmental enrichment. Bristol Zoo is fortunate to be one of the few UK zoos with an on-site veterinary department, rather than needing to employ wildlife vets from external clinics. Bristol Zoo is a Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons Approved Centre for Zoological Medicine and recently our head Vet Michelle Barrows was awarded a de-facto European Diplomate in Zoo Health Management. Established in 1999, the veterinary department deals with over 10,000 animals of more than 500 species resident at both Bristol Zoo and the Wild Place Project. Our vets have particular expertise in the health of doves and pigeons, the health and welfare of rabbits, and husbandry training.

What research are we doing on our zoo animals?

We commission in-house research in applied welfare, as well as hosting many student projects from Fd.Sc. to Ph.D. level per year. Some of our current research includes:

  • Research to investigate lemur cognitive skills to inform reintroduction strategies
  • Longitudinal studies of gorilla social behaviour
  • Cognitive enrichment for primates and parrots

 

 

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