Social Housing in the Trenches: Lessons from Zoos

Social Housing in the Trenches: Lessons from Zoos


Thank you very much, I’m really excited to
be here. I’m sorry I missed yesterday’s talks. I’m really glad that there’s so much interest
in bridging the gap between zoo and research facilities. I’m just gonna comment a little
bit more about my background ’cause it’s really important to why I’m here and what I’m gonna
talk about, what I talk about. So I started as a lab animal veterinarian and I was very
lucky in Rochester that the program there was jointly run between the university and
the zoo and so I spent one to two days a week at the zoo, and then did the laboratory animal
residency at the same time. And one of the challenges that we faced at the university
for sure, this was 2010, so the age of enforcement was where we were then and so one of the challenges
that we faced was social housing our Rhesus macaques, and struggling with that, and what
we really relied on a lot was what we were experiencing at the zoo with some of our very
socially housed primates, especially but other animals too, who were enjoying a social experience
that was vastly different from the animals that we worked with at the university and
so sort of that contrasting experience was really important to me as I developed as a
veterinarian, and certainly became more interested in animal welfare and socializing animals
with that contrast. So, it’s mid-morning, so I’ll try to make
this a little bit interactive. So if we talk about social housing in research facilities,
what are some reasons that we do that? So we’re all here talking about social housing.
So why do we do, why is it important, why are we doing it? Feel free to yell out… Isolation of stress in that ____. Yeah, so we want better research models absolutely. Promote species specific behaviors. Absolutely. Improve Right, improve well-being absolutely. I think
it’s really interesting and it says a lot about the group of people that’s here today,
that a regulatory requirement is not what anyone said. And for sure, that was when I
was doing this at the University in 2010, that was our sort of our hammer right and
that we needed, sometimes. So we do it because it’s a regulatory requirement, we want better
research subjects, we want to improve animal well-being, and really it’s the right thing
to do for social species, and so the animals that are in our care, I believe we have a
moral obligation to provide them with the best lives that we can considering what they’re
giving back to us. So we know all of this. So if some of you are from zoos, some of you
may not be, but if you can think of why do we socially house animals in zoos? Any ideas?
Yeah, so a lot of the same reasons, right? And so it’s a regulatory requirement for us,
just like for research facilities, we do have a couple of differences within zoos, one of
our major goals is conservation of species. So for most animals, at least, they have to
be social, to breed, to conserve themselves. We also want to exhibit species typical behaviors
to our guests. So, another major part of our mission is education,
and connecting people to wild life and wild places and so being able to show them what
a normal animal looks like is really important to us. And so as we’ve evolved in zoos, we’ve
moved away from those menagerie style of cages where it’s concrete blocks animal after animal,
and we are moving towards these more naturalistic exhibits or habitats where the animals have
the opportunity to engage in more species typical behaviors and we’re trying to show
our guests what that looks like, and that gives us the opportunity also to do these
inter-species exhibit or these mixed species exhibits that are becoming more and more popular
and more and more prevalent, and again, as a way to increase the demonstration of species
typical behaviors. And so these animals, giraffe and zebra would share the same habitat in
the wild, and so we can give them that re-creation of that in a zoo and hopefully stimulate some
of those natural behaviors that we might see in the wild, and we can do that in research
facilities, too. And I’ll show you that in a minute. And then again it’s the right thing
to do for our social species. So we’re talking about challenges to social housing in research
facilities, so what are some of the challenges that we face when we do this? Space? Space. Yeah, so space is a big problem for
us. Cost. Cost. Study limitation. Yes, study limitation, so research participation.
Then just in terms of knowledge of the species that we’re dealing with, so there’s a variety
of a wide variety of species increasing numbers of species that are being used for research
with a variety of different social structures and so actually having people in our facilities
or even resources outside of our facilities that we can go to that know about what is
normal social structure in X animal is, or in X species is can be a challenge sometimes.
And there’s a variety of individuals that we work with in research facilities, and those
have a variety of different social histories themselves, and we know in lots of different
species, monkeys, and rabbits being big ones, that their social experience has a huge impact
on their ability to be socially housed going forward. And oftentimes when we’re on the
receiving end of these animals, we don’t know much about what happened to them before they
came to our facility. And that was something that I struggled with often when I was selecting
monkeys for researchers at the university. And all I’m looking at is maybe two or three
pages of medical records. And these animals at the University of Rochester
at least were participating in these long-term cognitive neuro behavioral studies, so they
were there 10 or 15 years with the idea that we were gonna socially house them, that they
were gonna participate in these research studies and one of the real challenges was picking
these animals, “Well, these look healthy and we’ll hope it works out for the next 15 years.”
And so some of the other things that I’ll talk about are maybe if we can figure out
more about that part of it and include that in our parameters of what we’re looking at. Then we set small cages and enclosures. The
need for unnatural social groups is a major challenge for us. So for us, we didn’t want
our rhesus macaques to breed. So that meant all male groups or pairs or all female pairs.
And that’s a very unnatural way of living. Same thing for rabbits. So we all know how
rabbits breed. So single-sex groups, and that’s a very unnatural social grouping. And then
we set research participation. So what about social housing in zoos, what are the challenges
we might face there? Small numbers? Small numbers, exactly. So, unnatural social
group sizes, so a very similar thing. So you saw our two giraffe and two zebra, that’s
our social herd. We have one of both species too, but it’s hard to get them all in a family
shot. Small spaces too? Some of them require a larger… Yeah, exactly, small spaces. I’m glad you
said that. I’ll come back to that. What else? ____ they still need to be on public display. Yeah, yeah, so having the opportunity for
people to be able to see them. One of the things that is a real driver for me is the
similarities and something that I always used to say is that every animal has a job to do
and so the research animals have jobs that they need to do and our zoo animals have jobs
that they need to do too, so they need to be out there and visible. Yeah. So really
very similar challenges in zoos than in research facilities that we’re talking about, so a
wide variety of species and social structures. And so, this is Katya, she’s our Amur tiger.
She lives alone. And so how many times a day do I when I’m walking by, am I asked or am
I told that our tiger is lonely? At least once every day and so this is a very natural
social structure for her to live in by herself, and it’s difficult to see but she’s a very
happy tiger, in that picture she just got a deer carcass, so she’s eating a deer. And
we were just talking about risk with feeding wild prey and Kathleen was talking about wild
feeding, feeding different foods. And for sure this is an opportunity that we have in
zoos that is probably somewhat limited in research facilities. So addressing the social needs of that animal
of that species versus the social needs of some of the other species that are much more
social is part of the challenges we face. Again, a variety of individuals with different
social histories. So, we have animals that may have been hand-reared, special aid challenge
for primates like orangutans. When they’re hand-reared they become… They’re often not
good mothers themselves so it’s sort of a perpetuating cycle that we have to deal with.
And especially in some of our other primates, and cats, these animals don’t necessarily
know how to be an orangutan or a gorilla or a leopard. And so, if they don’t have that
maternal experience, so trying to deal with those issues and give them the social skills
that they may not have, that they may have missed out on in the beginning of their lives,
it’s a problem. And I put small cages enclosures on this list too, and I put it in quotes because
you might look at our elephant exhibit or habitat, as we say, that’s a little less than
a quarter of an acre and say, “Come on, Lewis, what are you talking about? Small spaces?
What’s your problem?” But when you’re dealing with an animal that
lives here, that’s our quarter of an acre is very small and we know for sure that exhibit
size is a significant issue for at least for our visitors when they look at an exhibit
and question what we’re doing and how we’re housing animals and the same thing that could
be said of research facilities when we see macaques in stainless steel cages, where size
of the enclosure is a significant problem considering where they live. And then I added,
I said public scrutiny is maybe one difference that we have between zoos and research facilities
for sure. We’re admissions driven, so we wanna get people in the door, and so there’s nothing
that does that better than… Well, a baby animal does that the best and then second
best is a new animal. So we heavily promote only get a new animal and when that doesn’t
go the way we’re anticipating that it will, it leads to these sort of headlines where
we promoted we’re getting this new wild dog, it’s gonna be great, we’re gonna have babies,
it’s gonna be awesome, come to the zoo, come see it, and then we put them together, and
then the male kills the female or in the case of tigers, the female kills the male. And
it’s really sad. And then we have to go and defend why we did what we did and why we thought
it was okay and our process for going through that in a really public way. And we also have an increasingly skeptical
public of what we’re doing in zoos, as well. For sure, research facilities have had this
for a long time and zoos have too, but more and more people question the way we house
animals in zoos and so our zoo just got on this list this past year for the first time
among the worst zoos for elephants in the United States. And so, for sure, the way we
house animals, their social structures, considering the challenges just to providing a normal
social structure for these different species is important. But when I was putting this
together, I was thinking I’ve certainly encountered challenges, media challenges when I was working
more at the university. And so, on research facilities, we have this same problem with
animal extremists and this idea that what we’re doing is inherently wrong with management
of our research facilities. And so when we’re talking about social housing and defending
what we’re doing, this is a real opportunity for us to show how we care and that we’re
really promoting giving these animals the best experience that we can. And so, again,
even though there’s gonna be skeptics, there’s gonna be negatives, negative outcomes as part
of what we’re doing when we’re socially housing, that we’re trying, I think, is the bigger
key that we have to make sure that we’re sharing that message. So again, I’m trying to think of… Trying
to come up with something that’s different and so a commitment to a lifetime of care.
This is Lucy she’s a 42-year-old spider monkey that we… Just recently I went to California,
Lucy was brought to Seneca Park Zoo of about 10 years ago to join another very geriatric
spider monkey, aptly named Spider-Man… [laughter] Who… So they were supposed to live out their
golden years together, and Spider-Man died about a year ago, so we were left with Lucy
and these are very social animals, of course. Our zoo was phasing out spider monkeys. It
turns out a lot of zoos are phasing out spider monkeys for lots of different reasons. It’s
a challenge for us to find a social group for Lucy to join, recognizing that she’s 42
years old, even though she has no health problems that we can tell, except a little bit of arthritis.
Still, we have to provide for her social life going forward. But still, that’s not really
a difference, because this is here for research facilities too, this idea of a commitment
to lifetime of care for sure, for animals like chimpanzees, and really spreading and
our counterparts in India have been doing this for a long time, with retirement of research
dogs and other species that they use and macaques. So for sure, this idea of a commitment to
lifetime of care, and the challenges that that means for workup for social housing,
animals that require a social experience is something that’s really important for us to
consider as we equip animals for that. It turns out that zoos and research facilities
have a lot in common, and we really should be talking like this and really looking for
ways that we can partner with each other and come up with different ways that we can improve
animals in both situations. I’m gonna go through a few examples of different social housing,
or different social structures and social groups in a few different species, and try
to give a parallel to an experience and research and an experience in zoos and sort of show
how we have to go back and forth between one another, and we can really use experiences
on each side to help us move forward on the other side. White Crown mangabeys are also
called sooty mangabeys if you’ve seen them called that. Excuse me. They live in these
large multi-male/multi-female groups in the wild, and one of the interesting things about
them is that they have full-time resident males within their group, but they also have
transient males, these are adult males that come in and out of the social group and so
they’ll enter into the group and then leave. So the sort of intruders for some other species
are perfectly normal, as part of a mangabey social structure. What that means for us housing
them is that all-male groups are probably pretty likely to be successful because we
know they’re capable of having these male-male adult interactions even with unfamiliar animals,
so it’s probably something that we can do pretty easily. And it also helps that when
they are aggressive towards each other, it’s typically not that severe. Submissive behavior
is signaled by avoidance which is a really important concept when we’re talking about
social housing. Understanding how animals demonstrate their submission is really important
to be able to know how they’re going to interact with each other and what we need to do for
them to allow them to make their social groups on their own. These low-intensity aggressive
behaviors or social behaviors like facial threats, that sort of thing, are the predominant
means by which they make their hierarchy so we can take advantage of that and know that
when we put them together, it’s likely to be pretty successful with pretty low risk
of injury, and it turns out that we can do that in a zoo. So several zoos now have all-male
groups of sooty mangabeys living together pretty successfully. The same thing for olive baboons. These are
our baboons at the Seneca Park Zoo, they are actually research baboons, they came from
Tulane Primate Center, as they were phasing out their baboon colony. We were building
an Africa exhibit, so we got a few of them, and one of the other cool things we can do
in zoos is all… So all of baboons are named after olives. This is Sabina and Kalamata. They’re very cute. Again, we know in baboons,
they live in these very large troops up to 150 plus animals, there are lots of adult
males, lots of adult females and their offspring, different offspring. They have a fairly stable
linear hierarchy over time. Females also form friendships with males and that’s an important
part of managing them socially, that gets us an opportunity in research facilities where
we might have smaller, where we might be using pairs instead of a troop situation like we
have. Another important difference, though, from the sooty mangabeys is that these guys
are really mean to each other and that’s perfectly normal. We have fights almost daily in the
wild, we have that too. And one of the challenges for sure for people, especially our newer
people, when they come is that, when… If we try to intervene too much when they’re
fighting, we’re gonna make it worse, and we have to accept this is who baboons are, and
we love them for it, and so when they’re fighting, we accept that. Some part of their normal
behavior is aggression, and that we just have to manage that and accept that they will interact
aggressively. And so one of the things that’s really important
is finding different ways for us to facilitate social interactions or social groupings in
animals like that where there is significant amounts of aggression over time. And in a
way that we believe what we’re doing is improving welfare, right? ‘Cause that’s what we’re really
trying to do. And so if… We’re not trying to social house for social housing’s sake,
right? And so we do wanna reduce aggression to the point where it’s at some manageable
level, where animals aren’t getting injured, significantly injured all the time. And so
one of the things that we’ve been able to do is recognize that aggression increases
when these animals are… The term the keepers use is “in swell”, when their sex game swells
up, that’s what they say. So by suppressing their estrus cycles using contraceptives,
we can reduce the aggression that comes associated with that. And so that might be challenging
for research facilities where we’re really changing their hormone profiles, we’re really
changing their physiology to accomplish this. But for studies that aren’t looking at that,
maybe they are looking at that behavioral outcomes, maybe that’s okay, if you can. And
then for sure, this idea of surplus males is a challenge for us in zoos that might be
a correlative challenge in research facilities. So, I had a few researchers at the university,
who only wanted to use male macaques for lots of different reasons. And so for sure, those
animals, there’s a heightened level of aggression in those males versus animal… Of researchers
that were using different sexes, so… Alright, so going to rhesus macaques now, so a very
common research species. So what do you guys know about their natural history? I’m giving
it away. Yeah, so they live in very large groups with
adult, many adult males and many adult females and offspring. So again a species that should
be able to tolerate the presence, or at least tolerate the presence of other adult males
within the group. And so, just as a story, when I first got to the university we… One
of the… My first experiences within the first couple of weeks of working there, was
a meeting with our primate researchers. We had just had a USDA inspection. And at that
time there were fewer than 10% or so of our monkeys were socially housed. And so she sort
of gave us a bit of an ultimatum, “This has to change by the next time I’m here”. So we
had this meeting with our monkey researchers and they said, “Well, don’t they know, these
silly USDA inspectors don’t know anything about monkeys. Don’t they know we have these
adult male rhesus macaques, that’ll kill each other if we put them together?” And that was…
And, “Isn’t it obvious, don’t they know that?” So here I am, this 23-year-old veterinarian,
who’s gonna prove himself. And so I’m gonna go, do all this research and show why we are…
Why we can’t socially house, right? And so it was pretty quickly evident to me that of
course we can socially house and what are these people talking about? And so, of course,
rhesus macaques can live in social groups because they do in the wild. And so again very similar to some of the other
species that we… The other primate species that we’ve talked about, they live in these
large multi-male and multi-female groups. The females stay, the males leave and that
their dominance, that changes over time though. That’s a little bit different from some of
the other species that we were talking about. And something important again to remember
when we’re housing them in zoos or in research facilities, that their dominance might change.
So the monkey on bottom might become the monkey on top over time, and that’s something that’s
important for us to consider. And when they do this, when they establish their dominance
over one another, they do it through aggression and non-aggressive behavior. So, non-contact
behaviors like threatening facial expressions, grimacing, are really important behaviors
for them to cement that dominance relationship. And that’s why one of the things that we do
when we pair house monkeys is put them next to each other, where they can see each other
through a divider, right? And that’s a really… And that we know significantly… Well, often
significantly reduces the level of aggression that we see when we open the bars, right? And so… But if they were only in those…
If they only use those aggressive behaviors then it would have a different connotation
for when we were… When they were living together long-term in that small space. But
because we know they can cement that relationship over time, without using physical aggression,
it’s okay for us to pair house them in those smaller cages. And so that’s what we did at
the U of R and what many of you have done at throughout your facilities. Really looking
at benefits and risks of social housing and for the most part the benefits far outweigh
the risks and we can… This picture is not showing up great. But we can pair house these
adult male… These really big adult male rhesus macaques that wear collars, that are
heavily instrumented, that are water restricted or scheduled, that are food scheduled and
restricted, that go and do research in the lab for several hours a day. Because we know
about their natural history and their social structure and we know that these pairs are
compatible over time for the most part. And then… So then, one of the other challenges
that we faced at the university was small numbers of animals and so we have… Had about
a dozen researchers using rhesus and cynomolgus macaques and so in a few of the labs that
we were doing this with, we ran into this issue of, Well, I have odd numbers of animals
or odd numbers of species of animals and so I have a rhesus macaque and a cynomolgus macaque
and they can’t go together. And so one of the things that… Again, I said, as this
23-year-old, well that doesn’t make any sense, they’re monkeys. And so I’m not showing you
the natural history of cynomolgus macaques. But it is a little different, but it’s very
similar and similar enough that maybe it would be okay for them to be pair housed, if the
only alternative was for them to be singly housed. So, we asked around and although several primatologists
said, “That’s a really bad idea. They’ll never get along.” And so I said, “Well, I’m gonna
do it anyway.” So we opened the door and it went really well,
and as best as we could tell, there was no difference between the way these animals formed
a pair, the way these animals formed a dominance relationship and the way the other the single
sex or the single species pairs formed a dominance relationship and maintained themselves over
time. So we did this in adult males, juvenile males, females. The females were actually
more difficult and I think cynomolgus macaque females are a little bit more difficult, but
everyone has their own biases, right? Is anybody else doing this? No? Well, think about it.
I think… So, Angelica, is still at the university as our behaviorist at the university. I think
she’s put out a couple of more papers after this initial one that describes some of the
first ones that we did. And so that has a little bit more science, this was more of
a case report kind of thing, a case series. So, having been so successful with monkeys,
so by the time we were finished, we were up around 80%-85% of Macaques at the university.
So from less than 10% to above 80% and those last few really were researchers that had
odd numbers of animals and so we… And we weren’t making people go between… Two PhDs
don’t play in the same sandbox, right? Sometimes. So that was sort of our max. So we were so successful with the macaques
and we do a lot of orthopedics research there too and cardiovascular research. So we had
a lot of rabbits in single cages. And so, if monkeys can live in social groups and social
pairs, then obviously rabbits can too, right? Pretty easily ’cause this is what we all picture
when we picture rabbits, right? Lots of happy rabbits in a field, so these guys for sure
are social, and it’ll be really easy and we’ll just put them together, and that’s obviously
not true. It’s much more complicated than that. Turns
out rabbits are a lot harder than monkeys, right? So what do we know about the natural
history of rabbits if we really delve into it? Anybody? No? So European rabbits that
are the descendants of, our research rabbits are descended from European rabbits, are actually
really interesting, among leporid species, they’re the only ones that form stable social
groups. So the European rabbit is the only rabbit or hare that forms social groups. So
that should be a red flag for us, right? That something might not be right. So, looking
at the social history of rabbits, they can live in these large social groups with a dominant
buck, many females and subordinate males or adult males, so they can have adult males
around and tolerate their presence. There’s a strict linear hierarchy in each sex so that’s
a little bit different from monkeys. Males submit by retreating, that’s a really important
part. A really important difference in rabbits compared to monkeys or most primates, they
submit by retreating or fleeing depending on the term, how you define your terms. So they need to be able to get away to demonstrate
submission. So if you think about the cages that we house them in, in research facilities,
that’s probably not possible. And so, this sustained aggression that we see in rabbits
that we have pair housed in cages, in labs, might be because of the way we house them
and the way they need to demonstrate submission is not possible in the cages that we typically
use, whereas for macaques, our standard cages may be okay, because of the way they demonstrate
submission doesn’t require the other monkey to leave. We also know looking more about
rabbits if you watch groups of rabbits, they don’t… They actually typically don’t form
social groups, unless they have to. So in the absence of… And they choose not to form
the warrens, if they don’t have to. And so, in the absence of a multi-entrance warren,
those won’t stay in the same place. So there has to be different entrances for them to
use or they won’t nest in the same place. And if there are single dens that they can
use or single burrows that they can use, those will preferentially use those versus using
the multi-entrance warren, so for the most part. So it might actually be that these animals
are in this group because there’s only one place for all of them to live in this environment,
whereas if they had their choice, if there were multiple places to live maybe they wouldn’t
be together. So that’s a really important difference. But we also know that ’cause we
started socially housing them anyway, because we had this sort of idea of rabbits are social,
and we have to socially house social species. We started doing it anyway. And we do know
that even adult males, unrelated adult males will engage in affiliative behaviors, they
will choose to lie in close proximity, they’ll share food, they’ll allogroom one another. So there is some benefit to social housing
them. Males that are separated by a divider will choose to lay next to each other for
the majority of the time versus apart. So there must be some benefit to social grouping,
or social housing, even if they’re… Even considering what their natural history is.
So figuring out how we can provide them with that benefit without the negative part and
still allowing them to demonstrate those species typical behaviors is the key to socially housing
them. So when we socially house them in these larger pens, it tends to be more successful
than socially housing them in cages. And there’s also our group and others have done some other
studies about social experience in rabbits and rabbits that are pair housed, or group
housed in these larger pens tend to fight less, when they’re paired in those cages versus
animals that go straight into the cage. So, they’ve already maybe submitted that or cemented
that dominant structure, and then when they go into the cages, even though they can’t
get away as much as they should, the dominant buck still knows that he’s doing that and
we know each other. So when we did it, we would pair house animals
in these larger pens that were for dogs, that were built for dogs, that we didn’t use many
dogs. And then we would transfer them to these cages when they were gonna go on study. And
so we would pick, and so, this is really time-consuming, we would pick the two animals that spent the
most time together. And so we would put six or eight in a large pen. And then so, these
two animals that are hanging out together, those are the two that are buddies, they can
go into the cage together and they’ll share food next to each other. So, it’s a strategy
for making that more successful. And so again, thinking about different strategies that we
can use, recognizing natural behaviors in many species, including rabbits, the males
are really important as aggression reducers. And so in rabbits, the scent of the male…
The male marks the females, and that scent, we believe reduces aggression among the females.
So, you can increase social housing of does or increase affiliative behaviors of does
by dabbing the urine of a male on all the does. And so this is Joy Mench’s work, and
she’s done some really interesting stuff with rabbits. So again, so something that doesn’t
change their physiology, but recognizes their natural behavior and their natural social
structure. And so if you have bucks around, using the same one to inoculate all the females
gives you an opportunity to social house animals that you may not have had. For sure, rabbits
are complicated. Alright, so switching back to the zoo. So I mentioned elephants, so African
elephants that are really, really cool. What do we know about their social history or social
structure? Groups of matriarchs. Yeah, so, matriarchs, it’s a matriarchal society.
Anything else? Any other big keys? Family groups. Yeah, so family groups with usually a matriarch
grandmother, great grandmother, and then multi-generational. So the females tend to never leave their natal
group, which is a really important welfare thing for zoos. So, just in terms of their
nature, elephants are extremely gregarious. So, elephants have the biggest social network
besides humans of any mammals ever studied so far. So they recognize hundreds of individuals
and they remember them over time. So that’s an extremely important thing to consider when
we’re talking about socially housing them and managing them. Excuse me. The strong social
bonds are formed between females, like we said, mostly or usually related to, all related
to one another. And males often live alone. And we traditionally thought of males, adult
male elephants as living mostly or almost uniformly solitary lives, but we now know
that male elephants do spend significant portions of time interacting with other males and outside
of breeding season, so outside of musths, they will form these social groups with one
another, these bachelor herds that they’ll spend 30% to 40% to 50% in some groups of
their time outside of musths in these social groups. And the really cool part is that those relationships
are maintained over time. So they’ll break apart when they go into musth, but then the
elephants will return to the same, they’ll hook up with the same partner, or the same
group in the wild. So they remember those animals, so they form… So males form these
strong social bonds too. So that’s really important. And again, elephants are charismatic
species, for sure, that people care a lot about in zoos. And we know that spending time
housed separately for them increases their stereopathies and some other poor welfare
indicators. So social housing for them is extremely important and something that we
really focus on. So these are our girls at Seneca Park Zoo. So we have Genny C and Lilac.
If you’ve been to Rochester, Genesee is the… The Genesee River flows through Rochester,
and we’re famous for the Lilac Festival. We have really lots of lilacs. So that’s where
those names come from. They’re about 40 years old. All four were
captured from the wild. They’re about 40 years old. Genny C and Lilac have been at Seneca
Park Zoo since the early ’80s. So they’re pretty well bonded to each other. In about
probably 2014, 2013, our accreditor… Accrediting organization changed the standards for elephants.
And so we’re required to house three… Any institution that has elephants is required
to have at least three, recognizing that we never want them to be alone. So, if you have
two and one dies, then they’re alone. And it’s quite difficult to move one, so if we
can do that ahead of time, then that’s better. So in 2015, we brought Moki and Chana to the
zoo, recognizing that we had these two older elephants. So Moki and Chana had been together
for about 30 years in multiple different institutions, but still they were moving together. So they
were pretty well-bonded or are pretty well-bonded. And so this is a really unnatural grouping
for sure, these adult unrelated animals that we’re gonna force to live together now. But we know how gregarious they are, and so
sort of playing into that and giving them the opportunities to move in and out from
each other when they wanted to, it makes it successful. And so now we have all four together
100% of the time even overnight. And so, that was a big challenge and so… Or a big hurdle
to overcome with we have to separate them at night, ’cause we don’t know what’s going
on. And we live in Rochester, so they do spend a significant portion of time indoors from
December to July. Sarcastic, but almost… So it’s really important
that they have the opportunity to have as much face as we can, so being able to socially
house them at all times, is really important. We talk about in research facilities, this
idea of a social experience and nothing… Or something is better than nothing, for sure,
but if there’s not a real reason to leave all the doors open… Or to not to leave all
the doors open, then we should do it. And for sure I encountered that when I was
at the university with… Monkeys are not elephants. But we’ll separate them at night
and that will make it safer, and it was like no, that makes it much more dangerous the
next morning. And so, sort of overcoming that hurdle is uniform for all species. And we
also… Because we also know that these males have these strong bonds, we’re becoming much
more sensitive to that for zoos too. And I’m just gonna show this for a minute. Let me
see. I can figure it out. So this is a video from the Birmingham Zoo. There’s only two
zoos I believe right now that have herds of adult males, elephants, and it’s one of those
things that, again, is so ingrained. We cannot house adult male elephants together. And it
takes somebody to really challenge that paradigm to get there, and we know that they will interact
with each other, and for sure… So the alternative for these, for all four of the animals that
are in this herd would be singly housed, to be singly housed for their lives. It’s pretty amazing to see elephants like
this. They’re playing, they’re engaging in play behavior, which we know is one of the
most significant indicators of positive welfare, that there is. And so the idea that we would
never do this, is pretty exciting. That’s how far we’ve come with changing the paradigm.
And so it’s complicated for sure, and you saw that little bit of displacement at the
beginning, but we accept that’s a normal social behavior at this placement. But to give these
animals the opportunity to engage in normal play behavior, it is really important for
their welfare, really critical for their welfare. And so these animals are… I’m only showing
you a couple of minutes. For sure it’s really complicated to manage them, ’cause they do
go into musth. They do need to be separated like they would be in the wild, and so giving
them the opportunity to choose when they wanna interact, when they wanna engage in these
behaviors, it is really critical. Alright. Alright so how about snow leopards?
What do you guys know about the natural history of snow leopards? They’re solitary. Solitary, right. So I had to give an example
of a big cat that… So these guys are purely solitary in nature except during periods of
breeding. And then a mother with her cubs. And so again, that’s part of our mission,
we have to conserve species so we have to pair them at some point. And so this is Timila
above and Kaba below. So Timila came to us last year, to our zoo last year, based on
a breeding recommendation. And I will show you what happened with them. I’m Dr. Louis, I’m the Director of Animal
Health and conservation here at Seneca Park, Zoo. You may have heard we recently brought
in a new snow leopard, Timila, to be the mate for our male Kaba. And so during protected
contact introductions, Timila swatted at Kaba through the fence line and cut his eye. The
keepers immediately notified me and we began treatment. He came right up to the fence line.
Let us get a really close look at his eye and then treat it with eye drops. We ended
up having to do a physical exam under anesthesia, and we were able to confirm that the scratch
actually caused the eye to ulcerate. So we were more aggressive with our treatment but
unfortunately it still wasn’t successful. And the globe of his eye ended up rupturing.
So we had to take it out in a procedure called enucleation that we were able to do here at
zoo’s animal hospital. Kaba has made a full recovery. He’s moving around his exhibit.
He’s jumping up on his furniture. And we can’t detect any visual deficits, from before the
surgery. The keepers were observing the animals during
the introduction period, and it didn’t appear to be an aggressive interaction. More of cats
playing with each other along the fence line. Cats are solitary in the wild. You really
wouldn’t… Would only find them together for mating or for… Or a mother with cubs.
We’ve been really lucky here that our snow leopards have often gotten along so we’ve
been able to keep them together year-round, but oftentimes in conservation care and in
the natural range, they are solitary animals. In their new habitat Timila and Kaba will
be introduced again, around the mating time, so that we can mate based on a recommendation
by the Species Survival Plan. Again, so talking about sort of this idea
of public scrutiny, we’ve really… So we just built a new snow leopard habitat, right
before, or right after that animal came, so we heavily promoted her arrival to gear around
this new exhibit that we were opening. So of course, so we’re introducing the animals
and the plan was to put them together in this new habitat together, so when we opened it,
it would be this great thing, everyone was happy. Of course it didn’t go like that, and
so then when we were going to open this exhibit we knew that there would be a lot of questions.
For one, this animal’s missing an eye; and number two, they’re not together. And so where
is she? Where is he? Because you can only have one on exhibit at a time while they’re
not together. So really being proactive in trying to promote what we’re doing, and so
if you think about when you socially house animals, recognizing that we all have stakeholders,
right? And that was one of the things that when I was opening the door at the university,
it was something I always thought about is I’m gonna have to go tell this researcher
that this monkey… One monkey did whatever to the other one, or one rabbit did whatever
to the other one in the cage, you know. So for sure we all have these stakeholders,
but again, being so… Having to be so public about it is maybe something that’s different
for zoos. And so like I said in the video, we had been really… We all say snow leopards
are solitary, but our experience at our zoo is that the snow leopards had typically lived
in pairs, so our zoo going public had always experienced for the last 10 or 15 years snow
leopards living in a pair. And it is a really wide exhibit with lots of different options,
so even if they weren’t next to each other they were still, you could see them both.
And so us only having one, even one exhibit, even though we had both animals, was a significant
difference from what people were typically used to seeing, and so that was an important
thing to really recognize that these animals can be… Maybe can be social, but for the
most part they’re solitary, and so we have to recognize that. So our new strategy was
to wait until breeding season and do a more natural pairing, so when she would be more
receptive, they would be more receptive. Although it really wasn’t aggressive, it really was
like they were playing, like she was like a kid and still essentially and they were
playing, and you know how that goes. And so because of that we’re really lucky,
and this is sort of the bonus of being a zoo veterinarian. We had snow leopard cubs born
on Monday, and so sticking with it and not saying, “Well, she cut his eye, we’re stopping.
Never again,” we had to do it again. And so we did, and this is what we have to show for
it, so it’s really exciting. And the other thing that after… So we put them together
when she was receptive to breeding, and then we were sort of, said, “Let’s wait and see
what happens, and so if they start fighting, or if they seem unhappy together, then we’ll
separate them after they breed.” And so what happened, they maintained close proximity
to each other; they would sleep on the same bench together, and so they were bonded after
that. And so even though in the wild they might be singly housed, the zoo is not the
wild, and these animals were happy together, and so we kept them together. When she had
her cubs, they were separated but… Alright. So the last few minutes I’m just gonna talk
about using personality and temperament assessments, so some things that we talk about that have
been used in research facilities for a long time are becoming more prevalent in zoos too,
and hopefully we can apply those for more in both situations. And this is work from Dr. Capitanio at UC
Davis, at the Primate Center there. Is anyone familiar with his work? We invited him to
participate in the ACLAM forum last year that was mostly focused on welfare, and when I
talked to him to invite him and told him sort of the premise of why we were having him he
said, “Well, I don’t do welfare, my work’s not about welfare.” And he was really… I
could tell he was really uncomfortable with characterizing it that way, and I understand
it. I understand why, but if… You can apply it to improve welfare too, and that’s a really
important concept for us to think about. So he’s been using personality… He wouldn’t
use the word personality, he would use the word temperament. Personality is a little
bit anthropomorphic, but I’m used to saying personality, to try to understand affiliative
behaviors between rhesus macaques, among rhesus macaques. So he has lots of different traits,
and he determined that equability, which is calmness, activity patterns… Excuse me…
We might call it, or I might call it, introversion in people, sort of. And adaptability, directly
responsible or directly account for some of the variation that can’t be accounted for
by sex, rank, those type of typical factors that you might think of determining affiliative
behaviors or social relationships in rhesus macaques. And so that’s really useful for us in not
only affiliative behaviors but also for those of you who work with monkeys that do these
behavioral studies in training methodology. So they respond to training methods differently.
And so if we could use some of these temperament assessments to understand these two monkeys
might pair well together, and/or these two monkeys will participate in this… Will accept
being chaired and participating in this behavioral research study for the next 15 years of their
lives, that would be much better than me saying, “Well, it’s got a body condition score of
three and it’s got all of its hair, bring it on.” So if we can use those methods to
understand one, social housing and then two, research involvement, it would be very useful. So it turns out, zookeepers are able to reliably
rate animal personality traits as well. And more and more studies are coming out demonstrating
that these animal personality traits, what we think of being animal personality correlates
with individual breeding success, pair compatibility, the ability to live within different social
groups, how well they train in the case of an animal like a sea lion, where we have active
participation. And I talked about species survival plans in that video, and so most
of the breeding recommendations that we do in zoos are based on these species survival
plans and they’re looking at genetic diversity, and maintaining genetically healthy populations.
And so it’s great if those animals breed, but oftentimes behavior incompatibility is
a significant issue, and animals don’t breed like we want them to. And so, if we could
predict behavior incompatibility, it might help us a lot, and especially for a species
like a rhino, where again it’s very difficult to move a rhino. And so, if we move a rhino
cross country to have this great breeding, ’cause we want these awesome genetics, and
then they don’t like each other, that’s really costly, really time-consuming, and really
bad for that animal who’s got to experience then another move. So, if we can predict that, that’s really
useful. And so, in zebra finches, there has been personality assessments. So, zebra finch
pairs that have similar personalities produce healthier chicks. So they grow faster, those
sort of parameters, than zebra finch pairs that have different personalities. And that’s
in contrast to rhinos, where they tend to be more successful breeders if they have opposite
personalities. And if you say, “Well, that’s different,” but if you think about their natural
histories, zebra finches, the males and females both participate in parenting. So, in contrast
to rhinos, where they don’t. So obviously, they use different parameters to decide who
the best mate is. But certainly people that… We say opposites attract, but people that
have similar parenting styles are more likely to have successful children than people that
don’t. And so, it’s sort of a similar situation, where maybe if we can take advantage of that,
recognize natural history, but still take advantage of using personality assessments,
we can predict breeding success better. Terry Maple’s group developed this gorilla
behavior index back in the ’90s, but they didn’t really have a lot of animals to test
it on. And so, there’s been follow-up work since then looking at gorilla behavior. And
so, again this problem of surplus males is really… Is a significant problem in our
gorilla population in zoos. So, we have to have bachelor, we have to form bachelor herds
due to different space constraints. And so, again, understanding which animals might be
better in those situations would be really helpful. And so, recent work has demonstrated
that males that score higher on a trait called understanding are more likely to be housed
in social groups, and more likely to be successful in troops with other males. And then even though this, we’re talking about
social housing with other species with other animal species, I think it’s really important
for us to talk about the idea of a positive relationship with people as being a really
important social dimension for the animals in our care. And I do think we for sure embrace
this in zoos. And depending on where you are in your research facility where I think we
could do better, better with this and recognizing how important this is. So, a lot of work done
in farm animals suggest that those animals have different… The animals have different
welfare outcomes based on what they call stockmanship. So based on the relationship with their caretaker
or caregiver, even in the same management situations, even in the same housing styles.
So a pig in a gestation crate is not just a pig in a gestation crate. There’s a lot,
there’s more to it than that. And so really promoting the idea that the human caregiver
has a really, strong impact on that animal’s social experience, whether it’s in a research
facility or in a zoo, I think it’s really important in a really big way that we could
make a big difference. So, just to summarize, there’s really a common
approach to social housing in zoos and research facilities, and it all depends on understanding
the natural history and providing the opportunity for the animals to engage in species-specific
behaviors. So providing them with the ability to demonstrate submission/dominance as they
would in nature is really important. And for just as sort of an aside, but not really,
how many of you guys are familiar with the five freedoms? Probably everybody, right?
How many are familiar with the five opportunities? So, a few people. You better raise your hand,
Jessica. Everyone should! Yeah. Right, exactly. Oh you did? Oh, good.
Good, good. Alright, well, then I won’t belabor it, but again, looking at more positive indicators
of welfare. And when we’re talking about special housing, for sure there’s opportunities there
for us to give them the opportunity to thrive through social housing. And again, remember
the goal. And so, I sort of touched on this about the idea of: We’re not social housing
for social housing’s sake, we’re really trying to improve welfare. So this is Lou, he’s our
26-year-old hyena. He’s the oldest hyena in North America, probably the world. And when
his… Hyenas have really complex social structures where the females are the dominant. And so,
when his female partner died about 10 years ago, Lou was a different animal, happier,
I would say being anthropomorphic. And so, at his advanced age 10 years ago, we decided
that it would be better for us to manage him singly housed versus trying to integrate him
to another social group where he might not thrive as much. And so who knew that he was gonna live so
much longer? But still we continue to believe that his welfare is better served being singly
housed than socially housed. And so, while I’m for sure a cheerleader for social housing,
there are some situations that we have to remember where singly housing is better for
that particular animal or that particular situation. And now, you’ve seen it three times
now, but this is… I love this quote, and I always end whenever I give a welfare talk
about this, ’cause… About anything, ’cause I think this quote really summarizes what
we’re trying to do with welfare. We’re trying to do the best we can with the limited knowledge
that we have, and we all have to be open to when we know more, doing more, and doing better
with that knowledge. And so hopefully with continued communication, we can all learn
from each other and still continue to raise the bar in what we’re doing. So, thank you
very much.

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