#ThrowbackThursday2 Prof Robert Young shares some papers

Hello and happy #ThrowbackThursday

We have been seeking high and low for eminent zoo professionals and for this edition of brining you past papers is Prof Robert Young, University of Salford:

“I have always been fascinated by the natural world and the need to conserve it for future generations.  Thus, I studied Biology BSc (Hons) at the University of Nottingham (graduated 1989), followed by a PhD at the University of Edinburgh (graduated 1993) in animal behaviour/animal welfare under the supervision of Prof. Alistair Lawrence.  I then embarked on a wildlife career working as Research Coordinator for the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (Edinburgh Zoo), where I  was able to put into practice much of the theory I had gained during my university education.  In 2001, I moved to Brazil, as a Professor of Animal Behaviour, to further fulfill my  ambition to study wildlife. Here I developed a number of long term research projects on primate species (notably titi monkeys and marmosets), birds, carnivores and urban wildlife.  At the beginning of 2013 I moved to the University of Salford to take-up a Chair in Wildlife Conservation.”

Given Rob’s extensive experience it is great he is willing to share papers that he thinks we all need to read.

Club, R.  and Mason, G.  Animal Welfare: Captivity effects on wide-ranging carnivores Nature 425, 473-474 (2 October 2003) | doi:10.1038/425473a

Some species — ring-tailed lemurs and snow leopards, for example — apparently thrive in captivity, whereas others, such as Asian elephants and polar bears, are prone to problems that include poor health, repetitive stereotypic behaviour and breeding difficulties. Here we investigate this previously unexplained variation in captive animals’ welfare by focusing on caged carnivores, and show that it stems from constraints imposed on the natural behaviour of susceptible animals, with wide-ranging lifestyles in the wild predicting stereotypy and the extent of infant mortality in captivity. Our findings indicate that the keeping of naturally wide-ranging carnivores should be either fundamentally improved or phased out.

And Rob says:

“In this paper Ross Clubb and colleagues demonstrate the value of the comparative approach to predicting animal welfare problems in zoo-housed carnivores.  In particular, they show that carnivores, which are wide-ranging in the wild have higher than expected incidences of abnormal behaviour and infant mortality when housed in zoos.  These results are important not just because of their predictive power or being published in a prestigious scientific journal – but for drawing the attention to the animal welfare situation of non-primate species.”

Next up is:

Tidière, Morgane, Jean-Michel Gaillard, Vérane Berger, Dennis WH Müller, Laurie Bingaman Lackey, Olivier Gimenez, Marcus Clauss, and Jean-François Lemaître. “Comparative analyses of longevity and senescence reveal variable survival benefits of living in zoos across mammals.” Scientific reports 6 (2016).


While it is commonly believed that animals live longer in zoos than in the wild, this assumption has rarely been tested. We compared four survival metrics (longevity, baseline mortality, onset of senescence and rate of senescence) between both sexes of free-ranging and zoo populations of more than 50 mammal species. We found that mammals from zoo populations generally lived longer than their wild counterparts (84% of species). The effect was most notable in species with a faster pace of life (i.e. a short life span, high reproductive rate and high mortality in the wild) because zoos evidently offer protection against a number of relevant conditions like predation, intraspecific competition and diseases. Species with a slower pace of life (i.e. a long life span, low reproduction rate and low mortality in the wild) benefit less from captivity in terms of longevity; in such species, there is probably less potential for a reduction in mortality. These findings provide a first general explanation about the different magnitude of zoo environment benefits among mammalian species, and thereby highlight the effort that is needed to improve captive conditions for slow-living species that are particularly susceptible to extinction in the wild.

And Rob says:
“Again I have chosen a paper that uses comparative analyses, but this time to look at the question of longevity in zoo animals.  The public often confuse longevity with animal welfare, and this misunderstanding is often used by animal rights groups who often assert without any quantitative evidence that zoo animals die young.  Here in this study we see that the vast majority of zoo animals live longer than their wild counterparts.  More importantly is the discovery that fast living animals (i.e. large litter sizes, quick to reach sexual maturity) are most benefited by the zoo environment and slow living animals least benefited.  This information allows zoos to better manage the health and well-being of animals in their care.”
Thanks Rob!
What is also interesting is that both these papers are in prestigious journals so working on zoo welfare does not have to be a low key affair!
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