MICROCHIP-AUTOMATED HUSBANDRY AS ENRICHMENT FOR CAPTIVE ANIMALS

Julia Hoy (2010). MICROCHIP-AUTOMATED HUSBANDRY AS ENRICHMENT FOR CAPTIVE ANIMALS PhD Thesis, School of Animal Studies, The University of Queensland.

       
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s40671693_PhD_abstract.pdf Final Abstract application/pdf 39.85KB 3
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Author Julia Hoy
Thesis Title MICROCHIP-AUTOMATED HUSBANDRY AS ENRICHMENT FOR CAPTIVE ANIMALS
School, Centre or Institute School of Animal Studies
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2010-12
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Supervisor Associate Professor Peter Murray
Mr Andrew Tribe
Total pages 208
Total colour pages 29
Total black and white pages 179
Subjects 07 Agricultural and Veterinary Sciences
Abstract/Summary Over the last three decades it has become increasingly evident that the use of environmental enrichment is a fundamental tool for improving the welfare of captive animals. Enrichment should be provided to captive animals: in altering frequencies, on an individual animal basis, delivered in different ways and its efficacy should be evaluated. The quality and quantity of enrichment provided to captive animals is often inversely proportional to the time that animal care staff have available, which is generally limited by a multitude of other husbandry duties requiring attention. The overarching premise of this thesis was the concept that electronically automating the provision of enrichment and other husbandry practices could potentially ameliorate this limitation. The electronic automation of enrichment practices could facilitate the provision of many different stimuli to captive animals: on an individual basis, over a wide and unpredictable timeframe, in the absence of animal care staff, while automatically generating measures of evaluation. Automated animal husbandry systems incorporating radiofrequency identification (RFID) microchips have been utilised in production animal industries since the 1970s. Microchips used to automate husbandry for production animals are mostly embedded within ear tags, and collars so they would not be ideal for animals housed on display in zoological facilities. Small implantable RFID microchips are routinely used to identify pets and captive animals so they would be a more appropriate tool for automation of husbandry procedures, such as enrichment. As such, the main objective of this study was to investigate the potential of these implantable microchips to automate enrichment for captive animals. Before exploring this possibility it was necessary to quantify current enrichment practices in zoos, and identify the factors that limit provision and evaluation of enrichment for captive animals. To obtain this information, an international multi-institutional survey of individuals working with captive mammals was conducted. The results showed that irrespective of the perceived importance of different types of enrichment, if they were particularly time consuming to provide they were not made available to captive mammals as frequently as those requiring less staff time. There was strong consensus from survey respondents that current enrichment practices should be improved without impinging on staff time, indirectly supporting the potential merit behind automated husbandry systems. The survey was also used to directly ascertain the level of industry support for the overall concept and applications of microchip-automated husbandry systems in zoos. Survey respondents expressed a very high level of interest in adopting automated husbandry systems, with potential applications considered beneficial to varying degrees. The applications considered most beneficial involved increasing the frequency and variety of different stimuli provided to captive mammals. Being able to dispense enrichment 24 hours a day was also considered highly beneficial, as was providing food, medication and enrichment in different compositions to individual mammals. The survey also highlighted constraints in terms of the financial cost as well as concerns about the reliability of the technology. Although these constraints are valid, technology is advancing rapidly with improved reliability and reduced cost such that automated husbandry should be increasingly viable. Having established a need and support for implantable microchip-automated husbandry for captive animals, the next phase was to develop and test a prototype microchip-automated device. A microchip-automated feeder was designed to dispense a single food item when initiated by the proximity of an RFID microchip implanted within an animal. This prototype was tested using five owl monkeys (Aotus spp.) implanted with RFID microchips. The monkeys were provided with the automated feeder for nine consecutive days and surveillance cameras were used to record their interactions with the device. Standard food rations were freely available, and the feeder contained dried fruit ‘treats’. The owl monkeys used the automated feeder 38 times. This demonstrates that enrichment of captive owl monkeys can be automated using implantable RFID microchips. Given the novelty of the technology used in this study, the enrichment potential of the microchip-automated feeder needed to be evaluated. The behaviours of the five owl monkeys provided with the prototype feeders were compared to the behaviours of five control owl monkeys in an adjacent enclosure provided with an externally identical but non-operational feeder. There were extreme differences in the behaviour of individual owl monkeys. It was unclear to what extent the operational automated feeder was enrichment given there were similar levels of interaction of the control animals with the non-operational feeder. Although further development of this technology is necessary before widespread adoption can occur, this thesis has revealed a need and support for automation of husbandry for captive mammals using implantable RFID microchips, and demonstrated proof-of-concept. This has important implications for the management of captive animals.
Keyword automation
behaviour
captivity
enrichment
mammal
microchip
owl monkey
radio frequency identification
welfare
zoo
Additional Notes Colour pages (total 29) p#: 87, 89, 91, 96, 98, 99, 100, 101, 102, 104, 107, 108, 109, 121, 126, 127, 128, 130, 131, 132, 134, 138, 139, 140, 141, 143, 146, 148, 208 Landscape pages (total 6) p#: 128, 130, 134, 137, 146, 148

 
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Created: Tue, 19 Apr 2011, 19:50:20 EST by Miss Julia Hoy on behalf of Library - Information Access Service