Master's Theses

Date of Award

2013

Document Type

Thesis

Department

Biology

First Advisor

Robert Rockwell

Second Advisor

David Lohman

Keywords

Behavioral enrichment, Carcass feeding, vultures

Abstract

Carcass feeding is a potentially controversial feeding method for zoo animals. The common assumption is that many North American zoos refrain from feeding large carcasses to their carnivorous animals because zoo visitors might not approve of this feeding method. However, since there are several species of carnivores in zoos that feed from large carcasses in nature, this food type also has the potential to be beneficial to their welfare. In intelligent and usually inquisitive scavengers like vultures, a lack of activity and behavioral opportunities could be a welfare problem in captivity; providing them with a more complex food item might mitigate this. The goal of this study was, thus, to assess the frequency of carcass feeding for vultures in North American zoos, evaluate the opinion of North American zoo visitors and test behavioral benefits for zoo housed vultures. A survey among zoo staff revealed that small whole carcasses are implemented in the diet of vultures in most North American zoos but large carcasses are rarely used. A survey for zoo visitors showed that most people approve of carcass feeding for vultures and the majority would also like to observe the vultures eat. A behavioral study compared the reaction of captive Andean condors (Vultur gryphus) to several food items and found that larger carcasses occupy the birds longer than smaller carcasses and other food types.

 
 

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