Body condition scores of large carnivores in 44 European zoos
Keywords:body condition score, body mass, enclosure size, enrichment, large carnivores
Zoo animals are often suspected to be prone to obesity, due to a combination of readily provided food resources and reduced opportunity for physical exercise. Here, body condition and selected husbandry conditions (the amount of food offered, enclosure size and number of enrichment measures provided) of ten large carnivore species (15–104 individuals per species) in 44 European zoos in seven different countries were assessed. A standardised body condition scoring (BCS) protocol (ranging from 1–9) was applied by a single investigator. In general, the BCS showed a close to normal distribution around the ‘ideal’ score of 5, with a slight right shift towards higher BCS; only in jaguar Panthera onca and lynx Lynx lynx, BCS suggested over-conditioned study populations. BCS tended towards positive correlation with body mass, except in tigers Panthera tigris, leopards Panthera pardus and the two bear species Ursus arctos and U. maritimus. Within species, the BCS was not systematically correlated with the amount of food, enclosure size or number of enrichment measures. The results suggest that while both under- and over-conditioned individuals exist, the study populations are largely in a body condition considered ideal. The lack of overarching correlations with simplistic husbandry proxies suggests that management of body condition occurs at the level of the individual institution with tailored measures.
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