Studying Captive Animals
Studying Captive Animals
Studies of Behaviour, Welfare and Ecology in Captive Animals
To begin at the beginning
Dylan Thomas (1954)
Fig. 1.1 North American porcupine ( Erethizon dorsatum ).
1.1 What Are Captive Animals?
For the purposes of this book I have defined captive animals as those that are, or have recently been, under the control of humans. This includes zoo and farm animals, companion animals and free-ranging feral animals, but not animals kept in laboratory conditions. In most cases they are confined in relatively small areas (or volumes) by fences, walls and other barriers, and are unable to escape. In some cases they are free-ranging but still remain closely associated with humans.
1.1.2 A Short and Incomplete History of Captive Animal Studies
Studies of animals kept in captivity have a long history. Over 2300 years ago the Greek philosopher Aristotle wrote his History of Animals (Aristotle, 350 bc; trans. 1910). Alexander the Great captured many exotic animals on his military expeditions and sent them back to Greece where they were kept in menageries. Most of the city states of Greece had such menageries and these would have given Aristotle the opportunity to study animals that he would not have been able to see in the wild. The History of Animals contains descriptions of various aspects of animal behaviour that can only relate to captive animals For example, he discusses mating in the camel:
The male camel declines intercourse with its mother; if his keeper tries compulsion, he evinces disinclination. On one occasion, when intercourse was being declined by the young male, the keeper covered over the mother and put the young male to her; but, when after the intercourse the wrapping had been removed, though the operation was completed and could not be revoked, still by and by he bit his keeper to death.
Aristotle even refers to the training of elephants:
Of all wild animals the most easily tamed and the gentlest is the elephant. It can be taught a number of tricks, the drift and meaning of which it understands; as, for instance, it can be taught to kneel in presence of the king. It is very sensitive and possessed of an intelligence superior to that of other animals.
The Roman emperors kept many animals in private collections for study and for use in the Roman Games, where they perished in very large numbers. These animals were supplied by the Roman military and acquired from the rulers of the countries where the animals were endemic (Epplett, 2001). Thousands of wild animals were slaughtered when the Colosseum was inaugurated in ad 80.
The first zoo created for scientific purposes was the Regent's Park Zoo in London, now known as ZSL London Zoo. It was founded in 1828. Two years earlier in 1826 Stamford Raffles had founded the Zoological Society of London (ZSL). The first scientific meetings of the Society were held in 1830 and in the same year the first Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London were published. Initially the zoo was open only to Fellows of the Zoological Society and others with a written 'order' from a Fellow. It was fully opened to the public some 20 years later in 1847.
The scientific interest in zoo animals in Victorian times was largely concerned with anatomy and taxonomy and did not extend to concern for their welfare or any detailed consideration of their behaviour. Early enclosures were barren and many species were held behind iron bars ( Fig. 1.2 ).
Fig. 1.2 The polar bear ( Ursus maritimus ) enclosure at the former Belle Vue Zoo, Manchester (UK), constructed c.1850.
Source: Reproduced with permission, Chetham's Library, Manchester.
Animal welfare legislation is not yet 200 years old. I