Eastern black rhino and calf in exhibit

Animal Care & Welfare

Every day, zoo experts—curators, veterinarians, keepers, training and enrichment specialists, nutritionists, and animal welfare scientists—collaborate to ensure the animals at Lincoln Park Zoo receive care that promotes great welfare.

Animal Care staff working with seal

Animal Care

…relates to the environment and experiences Animal Care staff create for each individual animal through habitat design, specialized diets, feeding strategies, enrichment opportunities, social companions, and breeding partners, among other elements.

African painted dogs licking each other in exhibit

Animal Welfare

…refers to an individual animal’s overall quality of life as experienced by the animal. It is impacted by animal care, but also by other factors, such as the individual’s temperament and its own personal history.

Inforgraphic explaining the relationship between animal care and animal welfare. Care is provided via animal management, enrichment, nutrition, positive reinforcement training, and veterinary services. Welfare is measured via behavior, habitat use, hormones, and other measurables.

E&E Cycle in Action

Pygmy hippo standing in exhibit

In 2017, Lincoln Park Zoo staff observed that two resident pygmy hippos spent quite a lot of time sitting, standing, or lying down—and little time foraging for food. In order to simultaneously encourage mental stimulation and reduce their risk of obesity, Animal Care staff set out to motivate the hippos to actively explore their habitat in search of food.

The solution: automated belt feeders that distribute 80 percent of the hippos’ daily diet to different locations at unpredictable times. Using ZooMonitor, a zoo-developed behavioral monitoring tool, the team observed a 15 percent increase in hippo activity levels.

But this work is never done. The hippos, like all the animals at Lincoln Park Zoo, have ever-changing needs and preferences. Today, animal welfare scientists continue to monitor hippo activity, and Animal Care staff still use these feeders to keep the hippos engaged and curious. Through the evaluate-and-enhance cycle, Animal Care staff can evolve their techniques right along with them.

The Five Pillars of Care

Animal Management 

Lincoln Park Zoo’s animal management team consists of curators, zoological managers, and keepers who care for a wide range of diverse species. Their goal: providing the highest quality care to each individual animal to maintain sustainable zoo populations.

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Environmental Enrichment

Effective enrichment comes in many forms and varies from species to species—and even between individuals—but always helps to create complex, dynamic environments that encourage species-specific behaviors.

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Each animal at Lincoln Park Zoo receives an individually tailored diet based on feeding ecology, natural history, age, sex, body condition, and weight. Nutrition staff must strike a healthy balance between food preferences and nutritional goals.

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Positive Reinforcement Training

Through positive reinforcement training, Lincoln Park Zoo’s Animal Care staff teaches animals to participate in their own care and showcase species-specific behaviors for educational programs.

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Veterinary Services

Lincoln Park Zoo’s veterinarians wear many hats, serving as internists, surgeons, ophthalmologists, dermatologists, oncologists, radiologists, allergists, podiatrists, emergency room doctors, and dentists—among other roles—for nearly 200 species

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Animal Welfare Science Program

Lincoln Park Zoo uses science to improve the welfare (quality of life) of animals in human care. The Animal Welfare Science Program continually evaluates and enhances animal welfare by asking and answering questions that directly impact quality of life for zoo animals.

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Animal Care staff monitoring bird behavior in exhibit