Activity budget of zoo-housed Dolichotis patagonum mates
Keywords:behaviour, conservation, ex-situ, ex-situ management, monogamy, rodent
Captive conditions differ widely from an animal’s natural environment and risk making them prone to reduced behavioural flexibility and sometimes impaired reproduction. The Patagonian mara Dolichotis patagonum, a near threatened species, is a large rodent endemic to Argentina with a singular social organisation that combines monogamy with communal breeding. The aim of this study was to learn more about the activity budget and behavioural synchrony between mates of zoo-housed D. patagonum and thus contribute to research and conservation programmes at modern zoos worldwide. The study implicated 28 animals housed at Córdoba Zoo (Argentina) under natural photoperiod and temperature conditions. Behaviour was recorded once a week every hour from 0800–1800 for a 28-day period and the total offspring at the end of the spring-summer season were counted. The recorded activity budget was: resting (43%), feeding (25%) and alert (13%), the remaining categories accounting for less than 10%. Resting, feeding and alert were the only categories associated with hourly changes. There was 48% behavioural synchrony between mates (both sexes engaging in the same behaviour at the same time) and a total of 23 offspring were counted, corresponding to one litter each reproducing female. The similarity between the behavioural response of these zoo-housed individuals and available data on the behaviour of D. patagonum in the wild indicates that zoo-housed D. patagonum behavioural activities can be considered positive responses, providing useful information for the future development of reintroduction programmes.