Multi-sensor biologgers and innovative training allow data collection with high conservation and welfare value in zoos
Keywords:behaviour, biologging, captivity, daily diary, dead-reckoning, enrichment, space use, welfare
Zoos are valuable resources for research, allowing scientists to observe rare and elusive species. Animal-attached loggers (biologgers) offer profound insight into animal behaviour. Their use in zoos has great yet largely untapped potential to collect data relevant for wild animal research and conservation, and zoo animal welfare and enrichment monitoring. However, affixing biologgers to study animals can be problematic in captive settings, limiting their use for species such as large carnivores which ordinarily must be sedated for device fitting. Two yearling female Endangered African wild dogs Lycaon pictus were fitted with tri-axial accelerometer and magnetometer loggers while sedated in preparation for translocation from London to Whipsnade Zoo, with data collected for 10–26 hours until collar detachment. Two adult males at London Zoo were trained to accept collars in a modified crate in exchange for food—which removed the need for sedation—with data collected for 28 days. Biologger data detected fine-scale individual differences in recovery from sedation as well as within- and between-individual variation in activity patterns in relation to feeding regimes. The vectorial dynamic body acceleration metric, a proxy for movement-related energy expenditure, shows that daily energy expenditure was higher on days with partial pony carcass feeds compared to rabbit feeds but varied considerably between days where flesh pieces were fed with tongs. The dead-reckoning method allowed visualisation and quantification of fine-scale (1 Hz locations) movement paths within indoor and outdoor enclosures, and space use differences between individuals and over time. Combining multi-sensor biologgers with training captive animals to accept collars without the use of anaesthetic can enable flexible, experimental approaches to data collection with minimal impact on study animals, providing novel understanding of relevance for both zoo and wild animals.
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