Wild in injury, disease and poor mental health,

Wild animals
are kept in captivity for conservation, education, research purposes (e.g. zoos
and laboratories), farming and for entertainment purposes e.g. circuses (Whitham and Wielebnowski., 2013).
Due to captivity restrictions, wild animals are not able to perform behaviours
to the same extent as they would in the wild. These restrains include an
animal’s natural movement, foraging, feeding, hiding, mating and social
behaviour which is recognised as being deleterious for a captive animal’s
cognitive, normal social, reproduction and health development (Blackett et al., 2017).  The welfare of captive animals is directly
dependent upon the quality of life they experience, which is driven by the
understanding the keeper has of the needs of the animals, which may or may not
be informed by scientific knowledge (Blackett et al., 2017). Sub-optimal conditions and/or husbandry
practices can result in injury, disease and poor mental health, meaning that
environmental conditions, management and husbandry techniques that are employed
must promote positive physical and psychological health for all wild animals in
human care (Hosey et al.,
2013). An individual requires good psychological health, as well as good
physical health, to achieve good welfare. Further complicating the issue is the
variation in existing animal-welfare legislation and in the range of species
afforded protection under the legislation between different countries (Barrows., 2017). Wild
animals in the care of humans have been receiving increasing attention as more
concern is given over their welfare (Hosey et al., 2013). It is known that the maintenance of wild
animals in zoological institutions affects their welfare (Draper & Harris, 2012).
If the needs of animals are not met suffering may result, leading to behavioural
abnormalities, such as reduced responsiveness, stereotypies, self-mutilation or
increased aggression (Broom,
1988). In 2003, the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums adopted a
Code of Ethics and Animal Welfare requiring exhibits to be ‘of such size and
volume as to allow the animal to express its natural behaviours’ (WAZA, 2003). Operational
and accreditation standards are also produced by regional zoo associations,
however not all zoos belong to these associations.

I
will be focusing on the Ursidae family (Table 1) for this assessment. Bears are
very popular in zoos, however the welfare of these nonhuman animals is a
concern in many countries (Sergiel
and Maslak., 2014). Out of the eight species that belong to the family
six of the species are ranked vulnerable by the IUCN red list (IUCN., 2017)
ensuring a good, successful captive breeding programme can be essential for the
species.

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Ursid species
are in general extremely intelligent and opportunistic with respect to foraging
strategies. They explore and roam over large areas (Sergiel and Maslak., 2014). This particularly
applies to the brown and the polar bear, the two species most frequently
encountered in captivity. The size of a home range of a male brown bear is as
large as 8 171 km2, for the polar bear 596 800 km2, which
is more than twice the area of Great Britain (Montaudouin and Le Pape., 2005; Shepherdson., 2005).
Despite improved understanding and awareness of bear welfare through recent
developments in welfare science, many bears continue to be kept in
inappropriate environments such as concrete enclosures (Maslak et al., 2016). Many bear
enclosures lack enrichment, are spatially limited, and have simple layouts (Carlstead, 1996). Assessments
of the welfare of captive bears has included behavioural analysis of the stereotypies
displayed, as these are the most common behavioural symptoms of stress and
decreased welfare (Mason
& Latham, 2004). In one study where a survey of 33 carnivores was
undertaken, members of the Ursidae family displayed both the highest frequency
and the maximum prevalence of stereotypic behaviour (Clubb & Mason, 2003). The framework for the
analysis of animal welfare is based on the five freedoms principles. These
include: freedom from hunger and thirst; freedom from discomfort; freedom from
pain, injury, and disease; freedom to behave normally; and freedom from fear
and distress (Demartoto et al., 2017).

For many species ensuring reasonable animal welfare in captivity is
extremely challenging (Clubb
and Mason., 2003; Mason and Clubb., 2004). Over time species has evolved
and their physical, physiological and behavioural traits have developed to
optimise their chances of survival in their natural environment (Clubb and Mason., 2007). It has been found that if the captive
environment does not contain the species specific needs, there can be a
deterioration in both physical and mental health such as the development of
abnormal behaviour, disease and even early mortality (Sergiel et al., 2012). Similarly, invasive
interventions such as the restriction of movement, training using negative
reinforcement techniques, being trained to preform unnatural behaviours or making
modifications to the normal physiology of animals to reduce risks when
handling, can cause severe and lasting distress (Blackett et al., 2017).

Abnormal
behaviour includes stereotypic behaviours (Table 2) which are the most common
behavioural symptoms of stress and decreased welfare (Mason & Latham, 2004). Repetitive behaviours
which appear to have no obvious goal or function demonstrably caused by the
frustration of natural behaviour patterns, impaired brain function, or repeated
attempts to deal with some problem (Mason, 2010). In captivity, it has been found that members of
the Ursidae family are particularly susceptible to developing stereotypies,
mainly locomotive with pacing as a predominant behaviour (Sergiel and Maslak., 2014).
These locomotive behaviours are also exceptionally persistent once the
stereotypy has been established (Vickery & Mason, 2005). The behaviour becomes perseverative
and mechanical meaning that the animal has a weaker ability to interact with
the environment (Sergiel et
al., 2012).

The
causes of these abnormal behaviours have been found to be rooted in the
frustration caused by non-fulfilment which can arise in three ways: sustained
or recurrent eliciting stimuli in the animal’s internal or external environment,
reward and reinforcement e.g. coping and preservation (Mason., 2006). The need to roam, explore and
forage in the Ursidae family creates a basis for the development of behavioural
disorders, especially stereotypies (Clubb & Mason, 2003; Clubb & Mason, 2007). However, the
restrictive environments are not the only explanation for these abnormal
behaviours. Rearing and husbandry procedures as well as genetic factors have
been implicated in the formation of theses behaviour (Veasey et al., 1996).

The implication
of these welfare problems can be wide ranging and sometimes are not easy to
see. Apart from the psychological cost of the behaviour in response to the
conditions, the physical cost can be as equally severe (Harris et al., 2006). When looking at the cost of pacing or
circling, bears can pace over huge distance due to the number of repetitions
while constantly bending their body in the same manner which can lead to
musculoskeletal disorders (Vickery and Mason., 2003).
It is commonly found in this family that once an abnormal behaviour has been
established it can be extremely difficult or in so cases impossible to break or
negate the behaviour. In one study 85% of the polar bears monitored paced with
little to no effect shown by additional environment enrichment (Mason and Clubb., 2004; Shepherdson et al., 2005).
In order cases where the bears have been confiscated from farms or circuses
etc. enrichment can prove very difficult as often the animals were housed in
small confined cages and forced to perform unnatural behaviours for commercial
purposes (Cubillos and Caiozzi., 2005; Gupta and
Chakraborty., 2005; Peyton and Plenge., 2005). This has proven true in
spectacled, sun and brown bears (Ames., 1993;
Chilcote., 2016; Harris et al 2006; Maas., 2000). There is a
growing effort worldwide to develop objective indicators for animal welfare
assessment which can provide information on quality of life, but are
scientifically trustworthy, and can readily be used in practice (Wemelsfelder
and Mullan., 2014). Animals are capable of positive and negative emotions; therefore,
the indictors need to be sensitive to their emotions, physical health and also
to their experience of the conditions in which they live (Hosey et al., 2013). Welfare
indicators can be conveniently divided into resource-based and animal-based
indicators (Salas and Manteca., 2016). The resource-based indicators are
variables that are not measured in the animals but in their environment e.g.
size, design of the enclosure and environmental enrichment. Animal-based indicators
include all those variables that are measured directly in animals, e.g. changes
in behaviour, appearance, health and physiological parameters (Wemelsfelder and
Mullan., 2014; Salas and Manteca., 2016). However, these indicators need to be
used combined with species specific knowledge and should not be used on their
own. Commonly life expectancy, responsiveness, stereotypies and preference
tests are used to measure welfare (Salas and Manteca., 2016). Through the use
of preference tests, researchers can establish what an animal “wants” or “prefers”
in the short term (Kagan and Veasey., 2010). Providing
zoo animals with a choice in their enclosures has been proved to reduce
abnormal behaviour (Hosey et
al., 2013). When giant pandas were given the choice to use different
areas of their enclosure, the levels of behavioural agitation and urinary
cortisol decreased (Owen et
al., 2005). Whereas in polar bears a decreased in stereotypies and an
increase in play behaviour was seen in one study (Ross., 2006). However what an animal wants in
the short term is not always good for it in the long term.

The
zoo community is committed to enhancing animal welfare, with new and updated tools
e.g. animal welfare assessment grid (Justice et
al., 2017) available for monitoring and assessing the welfare of
individual animals being updated and improved constantly (Whitman and Miller., 2016).
Automated technologies that allow for assessments of postural behaviour,
movement, activity patterns and even vocalisations may be especially useful in
zoo environments and have already been used for monitoring farm animals (Matthews et al., 2016).
These automated tools provide insight into how animals behave when people are
not present and create a baseline and or behavioural profiles for individual
animals (Whitman and
Miller., 2016).

Negating
welfare problems is linked with good animal management. Welfare includes the
physical, emotional health, the behaviour of animals and there is no single
indicator that can provide enough information for a thorough assessment of an animal’s
welfare (Wemelsfelder and Mullan., 2014). However, using a combination of
several indicators that are suitable for measuring a species-specific welfare
state a thorough analysis can be run. 

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