Evaluating the Impact of Zoo Programs on Animal Welfare
The Animal Welfare Science Program conducts research to evaluate and enhance the welfare of animals at Lincoln Park Zoo.
Scientists with the Animal Welfare Science Program conducts research to evaluate and enhance the welfare of animals at Lincoln Park Zoo. Some projects focus on how the opportunity to engage in zoo programs, such as Malott Family Penguin Encounters and Regenstein Macaque Forest touchscreen research, affects the animals. With this valuable information, programs like these can be continually improved to ensure the animals involved experience great welfare.
Farm Animal Welfare
In 2019, Lincoln Park Zoo launched two new programs that offer zoo guests the opportunity to care for animals at Farm-in-the-Zoo. The two programs, “Feed the Chickens” and “Groom the Goats,” were new to the animals, as well. The programs were designed to follow Lincoln Park Zoo’s “Animal First” framework that prioritizes animal welfare. Using the ZooMonitor app, zoo scientists conducted detailed behavior and space–use observations of the animals as the guests cared for the chickens and goats to get a sense of how animal welfare was impacted. The results of these studies will inform future decisions about the programming to continue safeguarding animal welfare while inviting guests to engage with the animals.
Penguin Encounter Program
In 2017, Lincoln Park Zoo launched the new Malott Family Penguin Encounters, a program that invites visitors into a dedicated portion of the Robert and Mayari Penguin Pritzker Cove habitat. Zoo scientists tracked the behavior and space use of each individual in the penguin colony using ZooMonitor to determine how the encounters impacted their welfare. Scientists also measured the personality of individual penguins to better understand differences in participation. The results revealed that the Malott Family Penguin Encounter program had a neutral or positive impact on the behavior of the African penguin colony, and that penguins with a “bold” personality may be more likely to voluntarily participate.
Macaque Touchscreen Program
In 2015, Lincoln Park Zoo launched a new program that offers Japanese macaques at Regenstein Macaque Forest the opportunity to voluntarily engage in touchscreen computer research at the periphery of their habitat, while guests watched and learned how macaques solved problems. The program was designed to enrich both the macaques and the visitors, and zoo scientists measured how offering this touchscreen opportunity affected the macaque troop. Relying on ZooMonitor and behavioral data collected by interns at the Lester E. Fisher Center for the Study and Conservation of Apes, scientists learn how the program impacts social interactions in the troop, and how young macaques learn to navigate access to this rewarding opportunity.