In the first of these two papers on the welfare of exhibited animals, we looked briefly at the ethics of zoos, at the evolution of the zoo welfare debate, and at the development of zoo exhibits. This second paper will discuss in more detail the effects of captivity on behaviour, and how zoos can manipulate their enclosure designs and husbandry practices to further improve the welfare of their captive animals.
The standards of zoo exhibitry and husbandry have improved considerably over the past 50 years. However, during this same period both public expectations and the zoos’ own conservation objectives have meant that maintaining wild animals in captivity has become much more complex and expensive. Captive enclosures are, by their very nature, likely to be more simplistic than natural habitats, and this has both advantages and disadvantages for the exhibited animals. On the one hand, food is in plentiful supply, travel distances are small, health is closely monitored, mates are often provided and there are no predators. However, captive animals are also often faced with the problem of how to fill large amounts of time with the limited number of appropriate behaviours allowed by the enclosure (Shepherdson, 2003). Captive conditions, being more restrictive and less diversified than the wild, may offer the animal little opportunity for behavioural control and so are likely to exert some significant effects on their behaviour.