According to the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, animal husbandry is defined as the physiological, biological, psychological and social needs of animals.1 Every zoo that is AZA accredited needs to fulfill these needs correctly for the species and on a regular basis. In the UK, the ‘five freedoms’ are used to determine proper animal husbandry: freedom from injury and disease; freedom from hunger, thirst, and malnutrition; freedom from thermal or physical distress; freedom to express ‘normal’ behaviors; and freedom from fear.4 Other freedoms have been proposed – freedom from boredom and freedom of animal to exert control over it’s quality of life, to name a few – but the five have remained as structure to determine proper animal husbandry.4 Many different employees are needed to fulfill these needs, from animal keepers to curators to veterinarians. Each aspect of animal husbandry, as described by the AZA, will be briefly addressed.Order now
Physiological and biological needs are what the animal needs to do in order for its body to function properly. These needs include, but aren’t limited to, breathing, food, water, sleep, excretion and homeostasis. They are the basics for life, and are required for the animal to keep living. In zoo animals, food is a crucial aspect because each animal has a special diet; sometimes, it’s unknown exactly what that diet is because not enough research has been done on that species. Animal keepers notice a problem with the animal by paying attention to the animal’s behavior. Normally, animals that are sick won’t show until there’s advanced disease because if they show they are sick in the wild, they would be easily caught by predators.3 The altered behavior is different for every species, and animal keepers are crucial in noticing the slight differences in their animals.3 Once there’s a behavior change, keepers can notify veterinarians, which will hopefully diagnose and treat the illness (or possible nutritional deficiency) quickly to ensure the animal’s physiological and biological needs are being met.
Psychological needs are met when the animal has a healthy well-being. In recent years, research has been done on zoo animals in the area of recognizing cognitive abilities, emotions and feelings.4 Some people think having these views is subjective, sentimental and anthropomorphic, but it has been shown that when psychological needs aren’t met, stress and boredom predominate, which can lead to illness and death.4 When the public sees behavior that they recognize as stress or boredom, the welfare of zoo animals comes into question. To meet these needs, zoos need to understand the psychological needs of each species and individual. As mentioned previously, each species has a specific diet; how this diet is fed may be important for maintaining the psychological needs of a species because of social learning. Naïve individuals learn specific skills or knowledge from their parents or other group members; this knowledge can be a tradition of a species, and would help us understand how an animal lives in the wild.5 By providing proper psychological needs, scientists can learn more of how an animal behaves and survives in the wild. In addition to feeding, the set-up of the exhibit can provide psychological needs.4 If an animal were normally shy and nocturnal, it would require several hiding places during the day; if an animal lives alone in the wild on rocky terrain, it should have a solitary enclosure that exhibits similar terrain. Recognizing an animal’s individual personality and conforming to adapt to this personality can also meet psychological needs.2 For example, if an animal is normally very curious, giving them new items or toys in their exhibit encourages their well-being. A healthy well-being that includes proper living conditions, recognizing the animal’s personality and preventing boredom or stress is essential to meet the psychological needs of zoo animals.
Social needs are related to psychological needs because some animals normally exist in groups, herd, packs or colonies, and their well-being is determined by the well-being of the entire group.5 Other animals tend to exist singly or in pairs, so by knowing the social hierarchy of an animal, most of the social, and sometimes psychological, needs can be met. As mentioned previously, some animals need other group members to learn specific behaviors; this is also helpful in the zoo setting when training new animals by having them watch the previous residents perform the desired behavior. 5 By watching another group member perform the behavior, the new animal can learn the behavior faster.
Animal husbandry is the maintenance of an animal’s physiological, biological, psychological and social needs to promote quality of life. By ensuring animal husbandry, AZA accredited institutions are able to properly promote conservation and education for the public, and learn more about endangered species. Zoos are critical in promoting conservation so that future generations can experience the wonders of animals.
1. Association of Zoos and Aquariums . Silver Spring, MD: The Association; c1997-2009 . Health, Husbandry and Welfare . Available from http://www.aza.org/health-husbandry-and-welfare/
2. Bergmuller R. Animal Personality and Behavioural Syndromes. In: Kappeler P, editor. Animal Behaviour: Evolution and Mechanisms. Germany: Springer, 2010. p. 587-621.
3. Fowler ME. Behavioral Clues for Detection of Illness in Wild Animals: Models in Camelids and Elephants. In: Miller RE, Fowler ME, editors. Fowler’s Zoo and Wild Animal Medicine Current Therapy, volume 6. St Louis: Elsevier; 2008. p. 33-49.
4. Kagan R, Veasey J. Challenges of Zoo Animal Welfare. In: Kleiman DG, Thompson KV, Baer CK, editors. Wild Mammals in Captivity: Principles and Techniques for Zoo Management, 2nd edition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010. p. 11-21.
5. van Schaik CP. Social Learning and Culture in Animals. In: Kappeler P, editor. Animal Behaviour: Evolution and Mechanisms. Germany: Springer, 2010. p. 623-53.