Comparative Methods and Carnivore Welfare: Impacts of Animal Management and Natural History (#673)
Recent efforts in zoological institutions suggests comparative studies examining the natural history of species can help explain differences in welfare. For example, recent evidence suggests that ungulate species that are grazers have a longer life expectancy than browsers and that carnivores with larger home ranges in the wild are more prone to stereotypic behavior and higher infant mortality in zoos. The current study examined four indicators of welfare, reproductive success, infant mortality, behavioral diversity and pacing, in 34 species of carnivore at two zoological institutions. Independent contrasts were used to explore relationships between these indicators of welfare and three specific natural history traits. Results suggest that diet, but not home range or terrestriality, can explain a significant proportion of the variance of carnivore welfare. Species in the wild that are generalist feeders had higher behavioral diversity and reproductive success compared to their specialist counterparts. Discussion will include future research needed in zoos to help ensure all species thrive under professional care.