Old science, still useful!

Whilst its all well and good getting you the brand spanking new papers… what about the gazzilion that have gone before that you might of missed?

Here are 5 papers from the recent past to feast on while we putting together this months peer reviewed papers. Enjoy 🙂

Wells, Deborah L., Dwyer Coleman, and Mark G. Challis. “A note on the effect of auditory stimulation on the behaviour and welfare of zoo-housed gorillas.” Applied Animal Behaviour Science 100.3 (2006): 327-332.


Auditory stimulation has long been employed as a form of therapy for humans and animals housed in institutions. Its effect on one of our closest-living relatives, the gorilla, however, is largely unknown. This study explored the effect of auditory stimulation on the behaviour and welfare of six gorillas housed in Belfast Zoo. All animals were exposed to three conditions of auditory stimulation: a control (no auditory stimulation), an ecologically relevant condition (rainforest sounds) and an ecologically non-relevant condition (classical music). The gorillas’ behaviour was recorded in each condition using a scan-sampling technique. There was no significant effect of the auditory environment on the gorillas’ behaviour, although animals tended to show more behaviours suggestive of relaxation (i.e. resting, sitting) and fewer behaviours typically associated with stress (i.e. aggression, abnormal behaviour) during the ecologically relevant, and, in particular, the non-relevant, conditions than the control. Overall, findings suggest that certain types of auditory stimulation may hold some merit as a method of enrichment for zoo-housed gorillas, although more long-term work with a larger number of animals is needed before firm conclusions can be drawn.


Veasey, Jake S., Natalie K. Waran, and Robert J. Young. “On comparing the behaviour of zoo housed animals with wild conspecifics as a welfare indicator, using the giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis) as a model.” ANIMAL WELFARE-POTTERS BAR- 5 (1996): 139-154.
To assess the validity of using wild behavioural data as a welfare indicator for zoo animals, the time budgets of 19 captive giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis), from four zoos were compared with the time budgets of wild giraffe from Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe.
Differences were shown to exist between the behaviour of wild and captive giraffe. However, only the duration of lying differed significantly across zoos. Correlations demonstrated that both enclosure size and feed restriction affected the locomotor activity of giraffe. An attempt to quantify observer influence upon the behaviour of wild giraffe was made. Different
methods of observation were shown to significantly affect the time budget established. The extent to which wild giraffe behaviour can be used as a welfare indicator for captive conspecifics is discussed, as are the problems inherent in such a study. The difficulties in
constructing an alternative welfare measure using prevalence to veterinary problems, are briefly considered. Methods by which captive giraffe welfare can be improved are discussed, particularly concerning the provision of browse to allow more natural feeding patterns to be established.
Tarou, L. R., et al. “Computer-assisted enrichment for zoo-housed orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus).” Animal Welfare 13.4 (2004): 445-453.

The study of environmental enrichment has identified a variety of effective forms of enrichment, but there are widespread problems associated with their use. Few forms of enrichment are cognitively challenging, and even the most effective often result in rapid habituation. This study examined the use of a computer–joystick system, designed to increase in complexity with learning, as a potential form of enrichment. Eight orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus), housed in male/female pairs, were observed for 120 h during a baseline period and 120 h when the computer–joystick apparatus was available. Data were collected in 1 h sessions using instantaneous group scan sampling with 30 s intervals. The orangutans spent 25.9% of the scans using the joystick system. One member of each pair monopolised the computer system: ‘high users’ spent 48.9% of scans using the joystick system compared with 2.9% by ‘low users’. Behavioural changes associated with the provision of the computer included increases in aggressive behaviour, anxiety-related behaviours, solitary play, contact with and proximity to a social partner, and decreases in feeding. The lack of habituation by the high users, both within and across sessions, indicates that computer-assisted tasks may be a useful form of environmental enrichment for orangutans. However, the significant increase in aggression indicates that this form of enrichment may be more suitable for singly caged animals, or that the provision of multiple apparatuses should be tested for the ability to eliminate potential competition over the device.


FrĂ©zard, Anne, and Gilles Le Pape. “Contribution to the welfare of captive wolves (Canis lupus lupus): A behavioral comparison of six wolf packs.” Zoo biology 22.1 (2003): 33-44.
An interesting way to understand and eventually improve the well-being of captive animals is to compare different living and social conditions, in order to analyze the behavioral differences between animals living in very restrictive conditions and animals enjoying more permissive ones. In the present study we performed 10 observations of six wolf enclosures with quite different living and social conditions. The rest/activity balance, behavioral diversity, and use of available space were used as welfare criteria. Results show that the proportion of time resting was higher in large, comfortable enclosures. In each park, animals used only a part of the available space, the proportion being lower in large enclosures. The behavioral diversity was little affected by the size of the enclosure, but highly related to the composition of the pack. The results underline the importance of spatial choice and social group management.
Smith, A., and H. Gray. “Goldfish in a tank: the effect of substrate on foraging behaviour in aquarium fish.” Animal Welfare 20.3 (2011): 311-319.
The welfare of captive animals is influenced by their ability to express natural behaviours. Foraging is one behaviour that may be particularly important in this respect; many species will continue to work for food even when it is freely available. The role of substrate, and in particular particle size, on the foraging behaviour of goldfish (Carassius auratus) was examined through three repeated measures experiments. In the first, tanks were set up with five uniform substrates: plastic grid, coarse sand, fine gravel, pebbles, and cobbles. In the second, fish were provided with a choice between coarse sand and fine gravel, fine gravel and pebbles, and pebbles and cobbles. In the third, they were provided with two choices between coarse sand and cobbles, one where the sand contained more food and one where the cobbles did. Our results show that particle size significantly affected the amount of time goldfish spent foraging, and that goldfish exhibited foraging behaviour even in the absence of a substrate they can manipulate. Goldfish foraged longest when provided with coarse sand. Fish foraged significantly longer over smaller particle size substrates when given a choice, although they did not distinguish between the two finest substrates, coarse sand and gravel. Increases in total time spent foraging were achieved through more, rather than longer, bouts. Food density did not significantly alter preference for smaller particle substrates. In general, coarse sand (1.5 mm) was found to be the most appropriate substrate in terms of facilitating natural foraging behaviours. These findings are discussed with respect to the welfare and husbandry of goldfish and aquarium fish in general.
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