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Developing Behavioural indicators, as part of a Wider Set of Indicators, to assess the Welfare of Elephants in Zoos - WC1081

The aim of this project is to help improve the welfare of elephants in zoos. Government-funded research in 2008 found that many elephants had foot health and gait problems, the majority were overweight, and around half demonstrated stereotypical behaviours. Ministers charged the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums with taking vigorous and concerted action to improve matters within ten years, with a review after five. BIAZA is developing a set of indicators which will be used to assess elephant welfare and which will allow for future comparisons and for progress to be measured. This project supports the development of behavioural welfare indicators as part of this work.

The British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (BIAZA) Elephant Welfare Group (EWG) is developing a suite of outcome-based measures which can be used to develop individual welfare progress plans for all elephants kept in zoos in the UK. This project will develop behavioural indicators as an element of the welfare assessment of each elephant.
The project aims to develop a time-efficient and user friendly tool which, taking into account individual elephant history and health status, can be used to further understand the welfare of captive elephants in the UK. This will enable improvements in welfare to be documented consistently across zoos and for these improvements to be collated and reported to the BIAZA EWG. This information will feed directly into the five and ten year reviews of elephant welfare required by Ministers and will inform an evidence-based update to the Secretary of State’s Standards of Modern Zoo Practice (SSSMZP), if required.
The overall aims of the project are to develop a standardised set of behavioural indicators of elephant welfare and to produce an objective, evidence-based assessment process to monitor improvement for the realisation of short and long-term welfare benefits. Included in this, is the production of a template that can be used to report in a standardised and consistent way on progress towards improving the behaviour-related welfare of captive elephants in the UK.

More detailed aims and objectives are to:

1) Analyse existing behavioural measures of elephant welfare, and in consultation with zoo personnel, the EWG, the Expert Advisory Panel, and the Project Steering Group, identify specific behavioural indicators of welfare which can be used to assess welfare of captive elephants in the UK.

2) Compile a model/template behaviour-related elephant welfare plan to be used for each captive elephant in the UK, which will include:

• The welfare-related behaviours, both positive and negative, which the elephant currently exhibits and any factors which may have contributed to these, such as elephant health and history
• Monitoring of progress over time using the defined behavioural indicators.

The model/template plan will be clear and straightforward, enabling zoo inspectors to easily assess the positive and negative behavioural indicators of welfare recorded by keepers for each elephant, the actions being taken to address negative indicators, and how the behavioural indicators of welfare are changing over time. It will be developed to be user-friendly, which will involve careful consideration of the type of information that will be required, and provision of clear instructions on what informations needs to be entered. The model/template plan will be flexible to allow for future updates

3) Develop a short, simple User Guidance Handbook to accompany the model/template to help users apply it. This will describe clearly what information is required in each section of the model/template.

4) To work in collaboration with some elephant-holding zoos in the UK to complete initial assessments of welfare-related behaviour of elephants, to aid in development of the welfare tool.

5) Review current elephant provisions in the SSSMZP against findings from this project, and provide suggestions for evidence-based amendments to strengthen these.
Project Documents
• FRP - Final Report : Elephant welfare report WC1081   (2937k)
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2013

To: 2015

Cost: £55,186
Contractor / Funded Organisations
University of Nottingham