Increasing animal cognition research in zoos

Elias Garcia‐Pelegrin, Fay Clark, Rachael Miller
2022 Zoo Biology  
Animal cognition covers various mental processes including perception, learning, decision-making and memory, and animal behavior is often used as a proxy for measuring cognition. Animal cognition/behavior research has multiple benefits; it provides fundamental knowledge of animal biology and evolution but can also have applied conservation and welfare applications. Zoos provide an excellent yet relatively untapped resource for animal cognition research, because they house a wide variety of
more » ... es-many of which are under threat-and allow close observation and relatively high experimental control compared to the wild. Multi-zoo collaboration leads to increased sample size and species representation, which in turn leads to more robust science. However, there are salient challenges associated with zoo-based cognitive research, which are animal-based (e.g., small sample sizes at single zoos, untrained/unhabituated subjects, side effects) and human-based (e.g., time restrictions, safety concerns, and perceptions of animals interacting with unnatural technology or apparatus). We aim to increase the understanding and subsequent uptake of animal cognition research in zoos, by transparently outlining the main benefits and challenges. Importantly, we use our own research (1) a study on novelty responses in hornbills, and (2) a multi-site collaboration called the "ManyBirds" Project to demonstrate how challenges may be overcome. These potential options include using "drop and go" apparatuses that require no training, close human contact or animal separation. This study is aimed at zoo animal care and research staff, as well as external researchers interested in zoo-based studies.
doi:10.1002/zoo.21674 pmid:35037289 fatcat:uzhvhdwmdnbuxceihruhac3fgi