Using student-centred research to evidence-base exhibition of reptiles and amphibians: three species-specific case studies
AbstractWhen captive animals have choice over aspects of their environment, and are able to exercise control over interactionswith their surroundings, welfare can be improved and exhibits’ value to the zoo increased. Reptiles and amphibians are not common subjects in enrichment studies yet their demanding captive requirements suggest a need for enclosure diversity and biologically-sound enrichment programmes. As popular captive subjects, such animals are readily available for potential research projects that investigate behaviour, welfare and effects of enclosure design. Undergraduates on animal science courses that undertake a research-led dissertation or similar projects can collect data on such species that, if collected under a robust methodology, can be used to inform future husbandry decisions. This paper discusses three small-scale studies (on two reptile species and one amphibian species) that were designed to improve husbandry and welfare. The aim of the paper is to show that undergraduate projects, properly managed, can have a positive impact on overall day-to-day exhibition and management of these species. Results from these projects have shown that small changes to enclosure design can impact, in a beneficial fashion, on activity patterns and that overall enclosure design can help display the animals in a more interesting way to visitors. Potentially, the animal welfare benefits of enriched set-ups can be passed on to zoo visitors in the form of a more engaging, exciting and educationally-relevant zoo experience.
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