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Port Adelaide, Australia

Szokalski M.S.,University of South Australia | Litchfield C.A.,University of South Australia | Foster W.K.,Conservation Ark
Zoo Biology

Despite the potential dangers involved, interactions between zookeepers and captive big cats are increasing. Research with other animals, particularly nonhuman primates, suggests that closer interactions can be beneficial not only for the animals and their keepers, but also for zoo visitors. This study sought to determine whether the same benefits may apply to keeper-big cat interactions. An online questionnaire was completed by 86 keepers worldwide, assessing which types of handling (hands-on, protected, hands-off) they practice with their big cats, whether they practice training, and what their opinions of these methods are (through a series of rating scales and open-ended questions). Protected contact was the most frequently used handling method among this sample, particularly with lions, tigers, and cheetahs, and training was practiced by the majority of participants with all big cat species. Participants perceived protected contact as the most beneficial handling practice for big cats, keepers, and visitors, noting how it can allow a close bond between keeper and cat, as well as its educational value for zoo visitors. Contrastingly, concerns were raised about the use of hands-on approaches, particularly with regard to the safety of all parties involved and the potential for wrong messages to be sent to visitors. Further, training was reported to be more beneficial for each group than any handling practice, yielding similar potential benefits as protected contact. Consistent with existing information with other species, these findings will be useful in directing objective research examining the use of different handling and training methods with big cats. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Source

Szokalski M.S.,University of South Australia | Litchfield C.A.,University of South Australia | Foster W.K.,Conservation Ark
Applied Animal Behaviour Science

Environmental enrichment is a common approach for addressing stereotypic behaviour in captive animals. Like many big cats, tigers (Panthera tigris) are renowned for their stereotypic pacing, yet relatively little is known about optimal enrichment for this species. Given the large proportion of time wild tigers spend engaged in hunting, feeding, and territorial behaviours, research to date has focused almost primarily on enrichment devices and techniques that stimulate these. Success has been found in novel food items, altered feeding routines and food displays, and novel toys/objects; olfactory stimulation via the introduction of novel scents and enclosure rotations; and increases in enclosure size. In contrast, little attention has been paid to social enrichment. Although various zoos house tigers in social groups, the limited literature investigating this offers conflicting conclusions about the effects on the animals. Further, human-tiger interaction has been ignored in the literature, despite its increasing occurrence. With more tigers existing in captivity than in the wild, it is imperative that our understanding of tiger enrichment is expanded, particularly with regard to these underdeveloped areas. © 2012 Elsevier B.V. Source

Schultz D.J.,Conservation Ark | Rich B.G.,Conservation Ark | Rohrig W.,Conservation Ark | McCarthy P.J.,Conservation Ark | And 4 more authors.
Australian Mammalogy

The health of reintroduced animals has received little attention despite the potential impacts of poor animal health on the overall success of the reintroduction and potential risks to the host environment. As part of a reintroduction program, captive-bred brush-tailed rock-wallabies (BTRWs) (Petrogale penicillata) were hardened-off for at least three months before release into the Grampians National Park, western Victoria. A total of 41 animals were involved in the project, with the 24 selected for hardening-off aged between 1.1 and 4.3 years. In all, 21 animals have been released, with data from 11 collected from all sites (captive, hardening-off and reintroduced). At each site animals were periodically trapped, anaesthetised, physically examined, weighed, and blood sampled for haematological and biochemical data over three calendar years. All reintroduced animals were radio-collared. This study presents data across sites (167 samples), two seasons (winter/spring, 95 samples; summer/autumn, 72 samples), two different age groups (juveniles <1.25 years and subadults/adults >1.25 years) and both sexes. Seventy percent of released BTRWs and 90% of sympatric macropodids were positive for macropod herpes virus; none of three BTRWs tested for toxoplasmosis was positive. Faeces were collected opportunistically for flotation and ectoparasites were collected and identified. While physical examinations with anaesthesia were safe and eliminated some animals from being released, they failed to detect all cases of oral cavity disease. A reference range of haematological and biochemical parameters have been established for this evolutionarily significant unit of BTRW. Lymphocyte/neutrophil ratios of released animals suggested that the main acute stressor is a handling phenomenon but the oxidative stress index suggested that animals were coping with their environment. Significant site differences were noted for several variables including red cell mass (red cell count, haemoglobin, haematocrit), white cell count, lymphocyte/neutrophil ratio, albumin globulin ratio, creatinine, urate, ascorbic acid, α-tocopherol, retinol, cholinesterase, total carotenoids and oxidative stress index. Significant seasonal differences were noted for some variables, including red cell mass, ascorbic acid, albumin globulin ratio, cholinesterase, total carotenoids and retinol. Significant age differences were noted for red cell mass, albumin and dietary antioxidants. The only sex-related difference related to higher retinol levels in females. Those parameters related to diet, e.g. albumin, retinol, α-tocopherol, ascorbic acid, and total carotenoids were consistent with those found in other rock-wallabies. © 2011 Australian Mammal Society. Source

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