Behavioural research in zoos is commonplace and is used in the diagnosis and treatment of potential husbandry and management challenges. Robust methods that allow valid data collection and analysis constitute an evidence-based approach to animal care. Understanding behaviour is essential to improving animal management, and behavioural research is therefore popular, with a wide choice of behavioural methodologies and theories available. This review outlines ten methodological approaches, concepts or theories essential to zoo science that are based around behavioural observation. This list is not exhaustive but aims to define and describe key areas of consideration when planning and implementing a zoo-based behavioural project. We discuss the application of well-established methods (the construction of ethograms, use of time–activity patterns and measurement of space/enclosure use) as well as evaluating newer or less-widely applied analytical techniques, such as behavioural diversity indices, social networks analysis and Qualitative Behavioural Assessment. We also consider the importance of fundamental research methods, the application of pure science to understand and interpret zoo animal behaviour (with a review of a Tinbergian approach) and consideration of meta-analyses. The integration of observational techniques into experiments that aim to identify the cause and effect of behavioural performance is then explored, and we examine the assimilation of behavioural methods used in studies of environmental enrichment. By systematically studying animal behaviour, we can attempt to understand the welfare of individual animals in captivity, and here we present an example of our reviewed approaches to this area of zoo science. Combining multiple methodologies can lead to a greater understanding of behaviour and welfare, creating robust research, progressing husbandry and advancing conservation strategies. Collaborations between zoological collections and academic researchers (e.g., in Higher Education Institutions) can further refine and enhance the validity of research and husbandry practice alike.
|Number of pages||24|
|Journal||Journal of Zoological and Botanical Gardens|
|Publication status||Published - 10 Aug 2021|