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ZooChat Journal Club

Discussion in 'General Zoo Discussion' started by Giant Panda, 13 Nov 2016.

  1. Giant Panda

    Giant Panda Well-Known Member

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    Given the volume of news reported on this site, I've long wondered why ZooChatters don't tend to debate or even recognize advances in zoo research. This "Journal Club" is my attempt to remedy that: a thread dedicated to discussing papers members find important, relevant, or just plain interesting.

    As a general guideline, I think we should stick to papers recently published by peer-reviewed journals, eg. Zoo Biology, Conservation Biology and the Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science. Given the interdisciplinary nature of zoo research, I won't dictate a field of discussion, but we could possibly split different topics into different threads down the line.

    Below are brief overviews of some recent research that might generate discussion. Links are provided to the first two papers, which are freely available, but the rest require login/payment. There's not much I can do about that unfortunately, but all the abstracts are online (check Google Scholar). If anyone wants more info on a paper they can't access, feel free to drop me a PM.

    Finally, if any ZooChatters want to support zoo-based science, this is a list of projects looking for crowdfunding: Experiment.


    Zoo Biology (vol. 35, no. 5):

    1) "Husbandry and enclosure influences on penguin behavior and conservation breeding", Marshall et al. [https://www.researchgate.net/profil...n_breeding/links/57a4484908ae3f4529291702.pdf]
    More evidence that size matters from this multi-zoo comparison, which identified correlates of good welfare and breeding success in Humboldt penguins. Breeding success was influenced by social factors (group size and age), but pool-use (a proxy for health and natural behaviour) was significantly predicted by land area and enclosure size. A relationship between pool-use and pool area per penguin was described as near-significant (p=0.085*). These trends did not level off, suggesting that none of the five zoos provided large enough enclosures and minimum standards should be raised. A couple of similar papers were recently published in the Journal of Zoo and Aquarium Research [The effect of the zoo setting on the behavioural diversity of captive gentoo penguins and the implications for their educational potential | Collins | Journal of Zoo and Aquarium Research, King Penguins in Zoos: Relating Breeding Success to Husbandry Practices | Schweizer | Journal of Zoo and Aquarium Research].

    2) "Hair plucking, stress, and urinary cortisol among captive bonobos (Pan paniscus)", Brand et al. [https://www.researchgate.net/profil...n_paniscus/links/57bcb8e808aedf5f75eaa54b.pdf]
    The first study to investigate the relationship between hair-plucking (suggested to be stress-induced) and cortisol (a hormone involved in the stress response) in a great ape. This is important, because most research uses either behavioural or physiological stress indicators, rather than testing whether both give congruent results. In this case, a significant positive correlation was observed between cortisol levels and hair-plucking in female, but not male, bonobos at the Columbus Zoo (n=13**).

    3) "Plumage variation and social partner choice in the greater flamingo (Phoenicopterus roseus)", Freeman et al.
    Interesting correlations identified between colouration and social relationships in greater flamingos at Disney's Animal Kingdom. Males with a preferred social partner were redder than males without, and there was evidence for assortative pairing based on plumage colour. Some important research being carried out on flamingos at the moment. Watch this space.


    Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science (vol. 19, no. 4):

    4) "Environmental enrichment effect on fecal glucocorticoid metabolites and captive maned wolf (Chrysocyon brachyurus) behavior", Martín et al.
    Examined the effect of different types of enrichment (intraspecific, interspecific, and foraging) on maned wolves at the Belo Horizonte Zoo, Brazil. This study also used both physiological and behavioural stress indicators, but only three wolves were included and no consistent patterns were identified.

    5) "Environmental enrichments for a group of captive macaws: low interaction does not mean low behavioral changes", Reimer et al.
    Study assessing how different enrichments influenced the behaviour of 16 macaws (14 Ara ararauna, two A. macao) at the Bosque dos Jequitibás Zoo in Brazil. Enrichments the macaws interacted with least resulted in as many behavioural changes as those they reacted with most, suggesting low interaction doesn't mean an enrichment has failed.


    Applied Animal Behaviour Science (vol. 184):

    6) "A comparison of nocturnal primate behavior in exhibits illuminated with red and blue light", Fuller et al.
    A must-read for anyone with an opinion on nocturnal houses and the welfare implications of indoor-only exhibits. Nocturnal strepsirrhines kept under blue light during the dark phase (often used to create a "moonlit" effect) spent less time active than those under red light. Levels of melatonin (a hormone that controls sleep-wake cycles) were also significantly lower for an aye-aye in the blue condition. The authors therefore concluded red (and possibly also white) light is better for animal welfare.


    Visitor Studies (vol. 19, no. 2):

    7) "Visitors' perceptions of the conservation education role of zoos and aquariums: implications for the provision of learning experiences", Ballantyne & Packer.
    Some fascinating insights into the average zoo visitor from this questionnaire-based study, carried out at 13 zoos/aquariums in four countries. Spending time with friends and family was the primary impetus for most visits, but education was the second highest priority. Visitor satisfaction was shaped most strongly by animal welfare concerns, in particular seeing animals that were well cared for and exhibited naturalistically. In terms of the role of zoos, 76% of respondents believed conservation education should be at least as important as providing a fun day out, whilst 81% thought it was at least as important as exhibiting rare, endangered, or exotic animals. Interestingly, 79% of visitors attended zoos at least once a year. These are just a few highlights; I'd recommend any ZooChatter who can to read the paper in its entirety.



    *P-values are a measure of statistical significance, with smaller values indicating more significant results. They describe the probability of obtaining a result equal to, or more extreme than, your observed result if the effect you’re testing for is not present. In other words, they're the likelihood of getting a false positive, so a p-value of 0.085 means a false positive would be expected in 8.5% of cases. By convention, p-values <0.05 (false positives expected in <5% of cases) are considered statistically significant, hence the authors described p=0.085 as "near-significant".***

    **N is the sample size. In this case, n=13 means 13 chimps were included in the study. In general, larger sample sizes are better, but what constitutes an adequate sample size (and, indeed, a sample) is context-dependent. This is particularly relevant to zoo research, where there are often practical constraints on sample size and, from an ethics perspective, one of the “3Rs” is Reduction.***

    ***No patronization intended!
     
    Last edited: 13 Nov 2016
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  2. Giant Panda

    Giant Panda Well-Known Member

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    I'm planning to update this thread within the next month or so, but until then here's an open-access paper on meerkat welfare. Three variables – smaller group size, smaller enclosure size, and greater visitor exposure – were associated with higher stress levels, measured using faecal glucocorticoid metabolites (glucocorticoids are hormones released as part of the stress response). Oddly, the authors don't mention a previous study on the visitor effect in meerkats (Sherwen et al. 2014), which used behavioural welfare indicators and found no effect.

    Group size and visitor numbers predict faecal glucocorticoid concentrations in zoo meerkats | Open Science

    For the less inclined, there's also a newspaper article outlining the research. I have to say, I think the responses from the zoo professionals here are appalling (as quoted, at any rate).

    Simples: how zoos can help stressed meerkats
     
    Last edited: 23 Apr 2017
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  3. overread

    overread Well-Known Member

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    Annoyingly I can't read all of the news article without subscribing; but the results are interesting. Visitor pressure and more room to move and hide make perfect sense to me and are, I suspect, staple results in many species kept in captivity. Even domestic species which undergo heavy human interaction can show increased stress.

    The group size was interesting in how more meerkats (up to a point) actually lowered the stress levels. But again its not surprise when you think about it as they are a pack species with a group mentality.


    I can't read the keeper comments and the newspaper might have cherrypicked; that said its also not abnormal that a species which has generally bred and survived well in captivity would get some push back from keepers when their method/standard enclosures are brought up in a negative light (esp if earlier research showed no or less stress).
     
  4. Giant Panda

    Giant Panda Well-Known Member

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    There is a large and growing body of evidence that visitors negatively impact animal welfare in zoos, although studies tend to be poorly designed and taxonomically biased. For reviews, see:

    1) Hosey, G. R. (2000). Zoo animals and their human audiences: What is the visitor effect?. Animal Welfare, 9(4), 343-358.

    2) Davey, G. (2007). Visitors' effects on the welfare of animals in the zoo: A review. Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science, 10(2), 169-183.

    3) Fernandez, E. J., Tamborski, M. A., Pickens, S. R., & Timberlake, W. (2009). Animal–visitor interactions in the modern zoo: Conflicts and interventions. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 120(1), 1-8.

    Absolutely. If I recall correctly, six is the magic number for meerkats; wild groups of <6 are unlikely to survive.

    Here is the relevant part of the article:

    Amy Plowman, director of conservation at Paignton Zoo, said: “Physiological stress is part of being an animal and not to be confused with distress. Often it’s not feasible to keep bigger groups because if individuals don’t get on this causes more stress.”

    Benjamin Mee, chief executive of Dartmoor Zoo, said: “They get very stressed when they’re on their own. They need to be in a group of at least two.”
     
  5. overread

    overread Well-Known Member

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    I can see the line between stress and distress being a massive sticking point of debate and also something that could be very hard to determine the difference between with regard to animals. At least when one is talking about build up of stress and more modest levels - the extreme ends are often easy to identify for those used to working with animals, but by that point much of the damage is done and recovery is much harder.
     
  6. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

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    I can't read the article without subscribing to the paper, which I am not inclined to do, but I do wonder if Mee was misquoted there, or there's a typo? That line sounds wrong - "a group of at least two".

    The first quote, however, reads exactly like double-speak.
     
  7. Giant Panda

    Giant Panda Well-Known Member

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    I would argue that the difference between stress (which can be positive, neutral or negative) and distress (which is necessarily negative) is largely temporal. Given that distress is generally defined as chronic stress and this was a longitudinal study carried out over a long period, I consider the distinction deeply misleading (again, as quoted).

    Perhaps, but Dartmoor's exhibit couldn't hold (m)any more than two.
     
  8. DesertRhino150

    DesertRhino150 Well-Known Member

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  9. DesertRhino150

    DesertRhino150 Well-Known Member

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    I saw this very interesting piece of research about visitor reactions to carcass feeding in three carnivorous mammals (Tasmanian devil, spotted hyena and African painted dog) at ABQ BioPark Zoo in Albuquerque. The response was very positive - visitors stay longer at the exhibit when a carcass is present, report feeling comfortable and at ease when watching a carcass feeding and also exhibit positive attitudes toward animal care and welfare when watching such feedings.

    The actual paper seems to be only available behind a paywall, but it is available in thesis format from before it was actually published:
    https://digital.lib.washington.edu/...19/Roth_washington_0250O_14597.pdf?sequence=1
     
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