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High sex drive ungulates, such as sheep and pigs, are most at risk of stress in captivity

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After multiple COVID lockdowns, most of us are all too aware of the consequences of being locked up all day.

New research has now found that many animals in captivity feel the same – especially ungulates with high sexual urges such as sheep, pigs and buffalo.

The same goes for foraging animals that eat high-growing woody vegetation, such as camels, giraffes and rhinoceroses.

This is because being kept in an enclosure limits their ability to respond to their natural instincts to reproduce and forage for food, causing stress.

Scientists from Aberystwyth University and the University of Portsmouth hope the findings will inform farms and zoos on how best to meet their animals’ behavioral needs.

Co-author Dr Leanne Proops of 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 survive in captivity.’

New research has found that high sex drive ungulates such as sheep (pictured), pigs and buffalo show more stress symptoms in captivity. This is because being locked in a fence limits their ability to act on their natural instincts to reproduce (stock image)

Other species at risk of showing stress symptoms are known as

Other species at risk of showing stress symptoms are known as “browsers,” for example, camels, okapis (giraffes), and rhinoceroses. These animals eat high-growing, woody vegetation rather than grazing off the ground, and have an instinct to forage for food in order to survive

SPECIES AT RISK OF STRESS IN PRISON

promiscuous species

  • okapic
  • African Buffalo
  • domestic yak
  • Sheep
  • Collared Peccary
  • Pig

Browsing through species

  • camels
  • giraffes
  • Rhino
  • hemitragus
  • moose
  • Takin
  • okapic

She added: ‘We found that for ungulates, having the right diet and social organization is crucial to their well-being.

While for carnivores, adequate space in captivity appears to be key. This demonstrates the importance of understanding the specific needs of different species groups.’

More than five billion large ungulates are kept in captivity around the world, making them some of the most widely kept animals in the world.

Think of giraffes, horses and pigs that are kept as livestock or as a spectacle in zoos and safari parks.

It is known that animals in farms and zoos can exhibit repetitive stress-related habits known as “stereotypical” behavior.

These include tail biting in pigs, wool sucking in sheep and ‘boxwalking’ in horses, where the animal repeatedly walks around its enclosure.

They exhibit stereotypical behavior when their behavioral needs are limited by their captivity.

The behavioral needs of a species are the ones they perform to both survive and reproduce in the wild.

The study, published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society Bintended to identify which types of ungulates — known as ungulates — are better suited to captive environments.

The researchers also wanted to know how keepers can meet the needs of species that find life in captivity more stressful.

To do this, they identified the typical free-running and stereotyped behaviors in more than 15,000 individual animals spread over 38 ungulates.

They found that there was a link between this behavior and the type of food the ungulates eat.

Species that eat high-growing, woody vegetation rather than graze off the ground, known as “browsers,” such as camels, okapis, and rhinoceroses, are most at risk for showing stress symptoms.

In addition, there was another correlation between stereotypical behavior and the animal’s mating strategy, making promiscuous species more at risk.

Animal mating is strictly controlled in captivity, with different sexes often being separated and potential mates selected by human keepers.

This greatly limits the mating instincts of mammals, which could put more stress on the more promiscuous species, such as buffalo, yaks, sheep and pigs.

Animals in farms and zoos can exhibit repetitive stress-related habits known as

Animals in farms and zoos can exhibit repetitive stress-related habits known as “stereotypical” behavior. These include tail biting in pigs (pictured), wool sucking sheep and ‘boxwalking’ in horses where it walks repeatedly around its enclosure (stock image)

The researchers found that there was a link between stress symptoms and the type of food the ungulates eat and their mating behavior.  Okapi (pictured) are an example of both a leafing and promiscuous species

The researchers found that there was a link between stress symptoms and the type of food the ungulates eat and their mating behavior. Okapi (pictured) are an example of both a leafing and promiscuous species

The researchers suggest that meeting these specific behavioral needs through targeted husbandry, enrichment and breeding protocols should be prioritized to provide good welfare for ungulates.

It was also found that captive animals fed a high-protein, low-fiber diet or not having constant access to food are highly susceptible to behavioral problems.

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 stereotypical behavior in ungulates.

‘This research has very important implications for the way these large ungulates are kept in captivity. We now better understand which species are most susceptible to stress in captivity and how we can address this issue to improve the welfare of those animals. ‘

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 how best to keep and handle livestock.”

Zoo gorillas have developed a new sneeze-like call to get the attention of their human caretakers

Zoo gorillas have evolved their own call to get food and attention from their caretakers, research shows.

It’s been dubbed the “snough” by scientists at the University of Georgia — because it sounds somewhere between sneezing and coughing.

This is the first time ‘complex vocal learning’ has been identified in western gorillas, where they learn to make new sounds when they encounter new situations.

Outside of humans, it has only been found in songbirds, parrots, hummingbirds, whales, dolphins, porpoises, pinnipeds and recently in elephants.

Read more here

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