From tongue-rolling alpacas to excitable yaks and upset pigs, new research has put the lid on why some farm and zoo animals cope well with captivity and others show signs of stress.
Researchers from universities in Aberystwyth and Portsmouth have published the first large-scale study to determine which species of ungulates, known as ungulates, are better suited to captive environments, and which require better care when kept in captivity.
Worldwide, more than 5 billion of these large ungulates, such as giraffes, horses and pigs, are kept as livestock and in zoos and safari parks. This makes them the most kept animals in the world.
Published in the magazine Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciencesthe study looked at the behavior of more than 15,000 individual animals across 38 ungulates and found that the type of food eaten and their mating strategy were linked to the risk of stress symptoms.
Specifically, species most at risk from stress-related habits are browsers (those that eat high-growing woody vegetation), such as camels, okapis, and rhinoceroses, or are promiscuous, such as buffalo, yaks, sheep, and pigs.
The behavioral needs of a species are the needs they fulfill to survive and reproduce in the wild. If this behavior is limited by captivity, it can lead to poor welfare and repetitive, unusual behavior, known as “stereotypical” behavior, often seen in farm and zoo animals. This study shows which specific behavioral needs should be prioritized in order to avoid stereotyped behavior and provide good welfare for ungulates.
The scientists also concluded that captive animals that do not have constant access to food are highly susceptible to behavioral problems.
Study co-author Dr. Sebastian McBride of Aberystwyth University said: “Our data suggest that features of both a species’ wild behavioral biology and captive husbandry are predictive of this stereotyped behavior in ungulates. This research has very important implications for how these large, ungulates are captive – we now have a better understanding of which species are most susceptible to stress in captivity and how we can address this issue to improve the welfare of those animals.”
Co-author Dr. Leanne Proops from the University of Portsmouth said: “This study uses a new method that allows us to better predict how well species that are rare or underexposed will cope in captivity. We found that for ungulates, having the proper food and social organization are crucial to their well-being, while for carnivores adequate space in captivity appears to be essential. This demonstrates the importance of understanding the specific needs of different groups of species.”
Study co-author Kate Lewis of the University of Portsmouth said: “As a society, we must continue to question and investigate the environmental factors important to animals if we want to maximize their well-being. Here are lessons for both farmers and zoos on the best way to raise and handle livestock.”
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Risk factors for stereotyped behavior in captive ungulates, Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences (2022). DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2022.1311. rspb.royalsocietypublishing.or … .1098/rspb.2022.1311
Quote: Browsing, Grazing, Mating: Food and Companionship Helping Captive Animals (2022, September 27) Retrieved September 27, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-09-browse-graze-food-company-animals. html
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