Big Cat Rescue’s Communication and Records
Information Flow Charts
Communication and Telephone System
Record Forms (samples)
This section deals with the Keeper’s role as an effective communicator in the Sanctuary; different forms of communications, record keeping and Big Cat Rescue phone and radio system.
The Keeper’s role in the modern Sanctuary involves many different skills; one of the most important of these is the Keeper as communicator. The Keeper is a vital link between the animals in his/her care, and the rest of the Refuge’s operation, directly and indirectly. Communications at and between the different organizational levels in the Sanctuary allow for a flow of information and ideas in both directions, to the benefit of the individual and the Sanctuary as a whole. A good Keeper cultivates good working relationships with other Keepers and all Sanctuary staff and auxiliary personnel.
Communication is basic to human experience and takes many forms. We communicate through the written and spoken word, through our attitudes and actions, and through our “body language”, dress, gestures and stance. Speech, perhaps the most basic and effective communication, is often the most difficult. The Keeper communicates with his/her animals, other Keepers, various levels of Sanctuary Management and with the public.
The following points should be considered in improving communication skills:
- Clarify your ideas before communication. Think about your idea or problem and decide the goals and attitudes (yours and the recipient’s). Plan ahead. What is the purpose of the communication? Don’t try to accomplish too much; identify your goals, adapt your language, tone and total approach to a specific objective. Consider the total physical and human setting when you communicate, because the impact of the communication depends on such factors as the timing, setting (social or private) and on past procedures. Consult with others, if appropriate; get consultation and participation to lend insight and objectivity when planning communications. Remember that your tone of voice, expressions, and receptiveness to the responses of others all have impact; be aware of the overtones and the basic content of your message. Try to know the other person’s point of view, interests and needs and try to convey something of help or value to the listener. After communicating, follow up, get feed back. Did you get your message across? Communicate for tomorrow as well as today; plan with the past in mind but with long range interests and plans. “Practice what you preach”. Persuasive communication is not what you say but what you do.
- Be a good listener; tune in to others, understand as well as be understood.
COMMUNICATIONS IN THE SANCTUARY
Communications in the Sanctuary, with respect to the Keeper, depend on two major factors.
- The policy of the Sanctuary Administration in providing means for communication within the Refuge’s operation. Can the Keeper exchange ideas and information with co-workers and administrative staff? Can he or she record important observations and data for the Refuge’s permanent record, and be involved with the Refuge’s Volunteers and with Sanctuary visitors? Is the Keeper encouraged to develop as a communicator within his/her own Sanctuary, and with the community and other zoos?
- The Keeper’s attitude: Even if all the above lines of communications are open, unless there is effort by the individual they are useless. Good working relationships with other staff members don’t just happen, they must be developed through communication. With the right approach and the proper attitude, and by trying hard enough you can communicate successfully.
It sometimes happens that the chain of command communication system breaks down and your communications don’t reach their goal in the form you intended. Keepers should be aware of this and be prepared to pursue a matter until they receive a satisfactory answer, especially where animal health or welfare is at stake. This is part of the Keeper’s responsibility. If in doubt about any procedure or request communicate with your immediate supervisor.Communication and information are both important and different. Information can be given with no exchange of ideas or experience, but these become meaningful when transmitted to others, especially when we consider all the practical aspects of Keeping. The communication can be written or verbal.Verbal: Effective verbal communication at all levels is important in the Sanctuary. As a Keeper, much of the information you will receive from and impart to other Keepers will be presented verbally. Be clear and precise in what you say; don’t be ambiguous, and always qualify your statements. “Let the animal out” isn’t sufficient – which animal, where is it, where does it go, how do you do it? Does the other person understand what you said? Do you understand what you have been told? Ask questions if you aren’t sure. Not only general and specific job knowledge is transmitted verbally, but changes in daily routine too. Talk to your co-workers. Use the two way radio system and staff meetings to make and maintain verbal contact.Written: A perceptive and alert Keeper is provided with huge amounts of data. This can be of considerable value when recorded in writing. Read and use the blackboards in your area for written communications; read the Sanctuary notice boards and magazines such as The Shape of Enrichment. Always read the Keeper reports and Observation Charts for your area after your days-off, sickness, or any absence, as well as getting verbal updates from co-workers. Use the Refuge’s library. Make sure you record information in the Refuge’s Observation Chart so that others can make use of it.
“Many species of animals owe their existence today to facts learned about them in zoological institutions.” (H. Hediger 1964)
VALUE OF RECORDS
The keeping of consistent, factual, accurate records of captive animals is of great importance in the Sanctuary today for a number of reasons.
- The Refuge’s changing role in the community, with trends towards research, education and conservation. Sanctuaries can supply scientific information to universities, zoologists, researchers and zoos. New government requirements regarding information that must be made available to them; information such as the acquisition and disposal of endangered or threatened species, animal movement in or out of the country, post-entry quarantine animals or those acquired under permits must be available to the government. There are internal and external pressures to improve animal husbandry techniques. Record keeping enables Sanctuary staff to know more about their collection and improve their husbandry, both directly through animal care and by planning ahead. Public relations: The public are intimately involved in the Sanctuary and often want to know an animal’s age and background. Records can supply this information.
- Co-operative programs such as ISIS or SSP require meticulous records if their standards are to be met. Records represent knowledge to the Sanctuary, about its collection past and present, patterns, breeding information and medical and other data.
Modern records are more useful and trustworthy than those of the past. Both the contributors and the audience have enlarged. We can produce more and retrieve data at a faster pace, as shown by the advent of computers and special software used in Sanctuary record systems.
Keepers are direct contributors to Sanctuary records, not only in recording factual information such as births and deaths, but in recording behavioural and nutritional information.
Almost all categories of information are important. Inventory and veterinary data must be recorded; also information on all aspects of an animal’s life and behaviour. Taken individually much of this data may seem to be without value, but faithfully recorded over time, may cumulatively reveal patterns or trends which are clear and meaningful. Keepers in their daily work use massive amounts of information gathered by many Sanctuary professionals over many years. Information categories of importance include:
(a) Acquisitions – births, purchases, donations, breeding loans, etc.
(b) Dispositions – deaths, sales, thefts, escapes, etc.
(c) Medical records – diagnosis, treatment, prognosis.
(d) Breeding behaviour – pre- and post-copulation behaviour patterns.
(e) Statistics – age, weight, size, longevity, etc.
(f) Necropsy and information on cause of death.
(g) Nutritional and dietary information.
(h) Life history information – adjustment to new cage, non-reproductive behaviour.
(i) Drug trial reports – delivery, effects, effectiveness.
Big Cat Rescue RECORDS
In order for a record keeping system to be effective, individuals within a species must be identifiable to the person(s) generating the facts and observations. We use a number of methods at the Big Cat Rescue to identify animals and these are discussed fully under ‘Identification and Marking’.
Big Cat Rescue has an extensive and valuable records system utilizing both a full time Record Keeper and veterinary records, the latter maintained by Animal Care staff.
The Record Keeper’s office is open to all Keepers who wish to make use of the Refuge’s record system, for background, breeding and other data on Sanctuary animals as well as identification, markings, age, weight and sex information.
The Sanctuary also maintains a library. Keepers should make good use of this facility to broaden their knowledge and understanding of the Sanctuary and the animals they care for. There are many excellent books, papers, various articles and journals, and a wealth of Internet resources.
Big Cat Rescue uses a standard system for indicating the sex of Sanctuary animals. When reporting animals we usually record them in shorthand as “males, females, sex unknown” example: A herd or group of two males and seven females would be simply written as 2.7, while a pair of animals with three unsexed young would be reported as l.1.3. If there isn’t a male or female being recorded then use a zero, i.e. a single female is written 0.1.
KEEPER’S DAILY REPORT
Always record an animal’s ISIS no. along with any identification or marking numbers, not just the house name or species. Make sure that your entries are under the correct numbered headings and try to keep them in numerical order. Be accurate.
|Arrivals are only those animals which enter the Sanctuary from outside, and normally will only concern quarantine area staff.|
|Departures, similarly are animals which leave the Sanctuary, which is extremely rare, while transfers are animals moved from one area of the Sanctuary to another.|
|Feeding Habits/Diet Changes and Illness/Injury are straight forward. Report all and any conditions or wounds you observe in your animals, even minor ones. Qualify what you see (small, deep, shallow, superficial cut, etc.) Small wounds or surface conditions may be indicative of larger problems. Record this on the Observation Chart at Information Station.|
|Treatment should identify the animal and what it was given.|
|Other Remarks/Observation. would include pest control operations, maintenance work carried out or required, supplies needed and animal behaviour which doesn’t fit in the previous categories.|
Try to report fully and accurately what you see. Remember that this information may be used in subsequent years to predict the onset of estrus, rut, gestation periods, or as the basis for seasonal diet changes, animal movement or behaviour patterns.OBSERVATION CHART
As well as the Keeper’s Daily Report as an information source, your area should maintain a day or section book, organized in the following manner:
(a) An up-to-date inventory of animals in the section, listing species, sex and identification of each animal.
(b) Work routine sheets, outlining the routines for the area.
(c ) Diet sheets for all species in the section.
(d) A day book section of loose pages for recording daily information.
(e) Species or individual files recording behaviour, breeding dates, medical treatments, identification, sexes, weights, etc.
Information is entered in the section book on a daily basis and requires the active co-operation of all Keepers in the area, with a commitment to regularly and accurately transcribe data. Some information, at the time of collection, may not seem significant, but may well be important when taken together with other data or over a period of time. Collation of material gathered on a daily basis can show patterns or regularities in behaviour in time periods that are too great for individuals to grasp.
Try to keep all your records up to date, especially the Observation Chart and individual animal records. Update your area inventory once a month or more if necessary. Edit what you record on your Keeper Report.
POST MORTEM SUBMISSION FORM
When an animal is submitted for post mortem, the P.M. submission form is usually the only information supplied to the Veterinarian about the animal’s death. Usually the Keeper fills out the form; it accompanies the animal to the P.M. room and is posted on the bulletin board outside the door.
The form lists the Sanctuary area (pavilion, holding, pen, etc.), the date of death (or date found if date of death isn’t known), the time of death (or time found), the species, identification (name, tag, tattoo), age (adult, juvenile, newborn, still born), sex and weight. There is a section for observation and comments; it is very important that the Keeper fill this out fully and accurately. Include any unusual signs prior to death, the position of the body when found, where in the exhibit and in relation to other animals; whether it was on land, in the water, in a tree, etc.; any signs of struggling, fighting, etc. Also record any recent changes in the environment, diet or behaviour which may provide clues to the cause of death. Whoever submits the P.M. form and the body or finds it usually signs the form in the space provided. Make sure that all the information that goes on the form has been properly recorded in your own section or day book and the relevant points added to the daily Keeper Report.
ISISISIS, which stands for International Species Inventory System, was begun in 1974 by the A.A.Z.P.A. as a current and continuing census of vertebrate animals in zoological parks and aquariums. The defined functions of the system are:
(a) Total species inventory
(b) Endangered species inventory
(c) Studbook inventory and tabulation
(d) Individual Sanctuary inventories
(e) Acquisition /release summaries for individual zoos
(g) Purchase/cost summaries
Big Cat Rescue registers with ISIS all its mammals and birds which can be identified individually and for which the species or subspecies is known. This is another reason why Keepers must maintain accurate up-to-date records of all their animals. ISIS currently contains data on all of our Sanctuary’s mammals.
ISIS participation provides the basis for a good internal Sanctuary record system. ISIS can provide the forms, instructions and data checking, and data recovery in the event of fire or loss.
Big Cat Rescue receives from ISIS:
- an annual inventory report of all mammals currently in the Big Cat Rescue collection. an acquisition-release report, or summary of inventory changes. the Species Distribution Report – a summary of all the birds and mammals in all member collections, organized by species. While (a) and (b) are on paper, the SDR is microfiched and stored online, providing fast access, long life and minimum storage space (compared to 3000 pages, 20 kg. weight that would be needed if it were printed on paper).
- Normal physiological data. This is a compilation of results of blood sample studies on many species submitted by participating Zoos.
ISIS can also supply PDS Pedigree Demographic Studbook Subsystem. This is a report on the ISIS participant population of any species or subspecies; the report is up to date and is finding much use in zoos, especially to locate and identify animals of a particular species. It is designed to provide technical information to aid institutions in developing and carrying out long term animal management or research projects. ISIS currently involves over 100 zoos and about 30 non-zoo captive animal holding facilities.
The three flow charts will give some idea of how information is stored and used in the Big Cat Rescue’s record systems. Much of the initial data is generated from the Keeper’s Daily Reports and it follows that such a primary information source must be accurate and legible.
1. Big Cat Rescue Live Collections Information Reporting System.
2. Big Cat Rescue Live Collections Record System.
3. Big Cat Rescue Animal Care Record System.
Big Cat Rescue SAMPLE RECORD FORMS
The following are some of the more common forms used at the Big Cat Rescue to record and store information.
Quarantine and Animal Care Daily Observation Reports
Feed Control Forms
Animal Information Forms
Feed Requisition SheetsPost Mortem FormDaily Medication Charts
ANIMAL IDENTIFICATION AND MARKING
Systems Used at the Big Cat Rescue
Sanctuaries have important responsibilities in conservation and research, but their work in these fields is of little value unless the animals involved can be individually identified with certainty, and the system of identification linked with an accurate record system. Scientifically breeding captive animals over many generations while maintaining a species’ genetic diversity, surveys on longevity, animal biology and reproduction, behaviour, disease and pathology all depend on accurate identification of individual animals throughout their lifetime and at post mortem.
The purpose of identifying an animal is to give it individuality within the Sanctuary; identification is an important tool in the day-to-day animal management in the Sanctuary, allowing the Keeper, Veterinarian, Nutritionist and Directors to interact with each animal as an individual.
With certain species and certain Keepers, visually identifying each animal (by appearance alone) may be a consideration, but the possibility of error, staff changes and the lack of permanency where the system is used without adequate marking techniques do not allow for sufficient accuracy and continuity. A system of individual identification that is accurate, permanent and that doesn’t rely solely on personal observation and memory without written aids, serves the Sanctuary as the basis for the kinds of scientific records required for present and future references.
When deciding on a system for identifying animals in the Sanctuary, the following criteria should be considered:
(a) The system should be as free as possible from pain and stress to the animal.
(b) It should afford minimal opportunity for infection of the marked area.
(c) It should not inhibit normal activity, moulting, sloughing, courtship, mating or feeding behaviours.
(d) It should give no cause for negative criticism from Sanctuary staff or the public.
(e) It should be easy to use.
(f) It should be adaptable for animals of different sizes and types.
(g) It should be permanent.
The choice of an identification system will also depend on whether the need is for visual identification (in which case the ID should be readable with ease at a distance), or only for a permanent record (where the marking system may not be visible unless the animal is physically handled).
With more than 30 species and about 200 specimens in the Big Cat Rescue we use several methods to identify animals. Other zoos use other methods and new ways of marking and identifying animals are being developed and tested. Big Cat Rescue’s methods aren’t foolproof and the systems are open to change and update.
(a) Passive Identification: Passive identification uses permanent natural differences between animals. Colour, size, shape, scars and patterns are all useful aids to differentiate one animal from another in groups, and as a record of the identity of individual animals. Such identifying features can be recorded by description, photography, or drawing. Snow leopards can be identified by the pattern of black markings on their foreheads.Temporary differences can also be used; plumage, coat, or antlers may change during the year, but can be handy visual aids for identification.
(b) Positive Non-natural Identification: This method includes the use of microchips, metal and plastic tags or bands (coloured and numbered), and tattooing. Some of these identifications are visible during the animal’s normal activity while others can’t be seen unless the animal is caught up, and serve only to record the identity of the individual.
(c) Positive Temporary Identification: Paints, dyes and collars are among those methods used for short-term identification, or for behavioural studies.
SYSTEMS USED AT Big Cat Rescue
A number of different systems are used at the Big Cat Rescue, while still others are under investigation as to feasibility of use.
For most birds, wing tags and/or leg bands form the best means of identifying each individual. Wing tags can tear out or be removed by the bird during preening. We utilize colour/number combinations; both numbers of bands as well as bands with numbers printed on them. Plastic is a favoured material as it has colour fastness and long life, and is inert. Some birds such as parrots will remove leg bands with their powerful and dexterous beaks, though parrot rings are available in heavier metal, with recessed screws. Another disadvantage of wing tags is that the bird must be handled to identify the tag numbers, as the band is usually hidden in the feathers. Modified wing tags can be used as flipper bands for penguins.
All cages have the individual animal’s name(s) and species listed. Most cages contain only one animal making identification easy. Natural features, morphological variation and behaviour are all used to identify many mammal species. Each animal is photographed and it’s photo and bio are available online here.
Microchips and Tattoos are very successful and permanent and in use on at least half of our animals. Any time an animal who is not micro chipped has to be knocked down for any other reason, it is to micro chipped while asleep.
(1) a bird with a blue 603 on the left leg and a green 84 tag on the right leg would be written blue 603/green 84 leg bands.
(2) a mammal with a red tag in the left ear would be identified as red/-ear tag. Never leave a blank space.
The numbering system is maintained and administered by Animal Care staff, and recorded in their Animal Identification/ Marking Log Book. Keepers also keep records of identification of animals in their area.
One of the most important skills a Keeper can acquire is the ability to accurately observe animals in the Sanctuary and interpret what he is seeing. This ability grows with experience as the Keeper becomes more familiar with the animals themselves. The more you as a Keeper know about the animals, what constitutes their normal appearance and behaviour, the easier it becomes to “know” when something is wrong.
Often this knowledge is in the form of an instinct or a feeling for something undefined; at other times cues may be more obvious, such as swollen limbs or lack of appetite, etc. The Keeper must learn to make his mind receptive to the information provided by his senses. The more receptive your mind is to this data, the easier you will find it becoming available to the conscious mind. Quite often your subconscious may register small changes in colour or locomotion etc., that will trigger the feeling that something isn’t normal about your animal. Learn to trust your instincts.
Try to develop your “critical eye”. It is almost like a sixth sense; try to really see what you are looking at and train yourself to observe and absorb details. Keeping is one of several professions in which observation, retention and interpretation of information play an important part. It is imperative that you do not let your skilled knowledge blind you to other possibilities or interpretations.
Wherever possible a Keeper should know his/her animals individually, by their natural distinguishing differences as well as by tag or band number etc. Scars, cuts, marks, disabilities, lost digits, etc. can all be used to recognize individuals.
Remember that the animal’s environment, objects in it, and how the animal uses it can all tell you things about your animal. Fresh secretions indicate that the animal may be marking; hair or feathers may mean a moult or a fight. The condition of the feces can be an excellent barometer of the animal’s general condition.
Use all your senses, when observing, to give you a good composite picture of the shape your animal is in. Know what a healthy specimen looks like, learn to recognize stance or posture, eye shine, coat condition and smell. Be aware of fences, buildings, etc. and don’t take them for granted – train yourself to notice holes in fences, loose wire, etc. Report all damage on the Enclosure Observation Chart.
Keeping is a dynamic learning situation. Every encounter with Sanctuary animals can provide the Keeper with a wealth of information, if he can learn to truly observe and interpret what his senses convey to him.
- Observe your animals Record what you see Report what you see Communicate
- Follow-up (feedback)
WHAT TO LOOK FORWhenever the Keeper is looking at an animal he should be observing the following:
- The animal’s condition: overall coat or feather condition, eye shine, manner of standing and walking, state of hooves, nails, claws, etc. weight; any cuts or injuries, discharges, etc. The animal’s behaviour: normal for the species and the individual, or out of the ordinary? The animal’s stool and urine: normal? The animal’s food and water intake: normal? Are all the animal’s in the group present?
- Having asked and answered these questions, the Keeper can then ask himself why? to each answer. Has an animal stopped eating because it is about to give birth, or shed it’s skin, or is it sick? There should be a reason why the animal is different from normal, and the alert Keeper must be satisfied that he/she can explain everything about the animal he sees.
Remember that the animals in the Sanctuary are the Keeper’s greatest teachers.
RECORDING OBSERVATIONSOnce an observation has been made it should be recorded so that other Sanctuary staff can benefit from it. Note taking is a very important tool in observation; there are other methods of recording information, such as tape recording, video tape, movie and still photography but basic written records of observations are the most important.
The Keeper should always record the time and date that the observation was made. For proper behavioural studies, check sheets of certain behaviours are often made up. Keepers using abbreviations or special terms should always include an explanation so that others reading the observation notes can understand what is meant.
When describing animal behaviour or interaction there are many categories which can be used to define the animal’s actions.
|Structure: dominance, submission, courtship, reproduction, adult/young, etc.|
|Compatibility: intra-species (within a species) or inter-species (among species).|
|Environment: territorial marking or protection; the animal’s use of the display space, the effect of the environment on the animal and vice versa.|
|seasonal or daily changes – sleep, rest and play cycles, etc.|
|Feeding: social structure of the feeding group, food preferences, etc.|
|Grooming: self and social grooming, preening, interaction with the exhibit.|
|Communications: vocal, visual, olfactory and physical contact.|
|Elimination: fecal deposition, coprophagy, urine marking.|
|Locomotion: methods, sleep/rest position, aquatic, aerial, arboreal, terrestrial; flight; other methods.|
|Threat: bluffing, attack.|
|Thresholds: changes in critical and personal distances, etc.|
|Communications: vocal, postural.|
|aggression during feeding or rut; when with young, etc.|
|Social Structure: group interaction, or solitary.|
|Stress: boredom, pacing, other nervous behaviours.|
|Displacement behaviour: problems or stress manifested in other behaviours.|
|Intra/Inter species: relationships with other animals.|
|Spatial occupation: use of various parts and levels of the exhibit.|
SOME OBSERVATION TIPS
|Keep your descriptions accurate – only record what you see, not what you think you see.|
|Use your senses; listen to your animals, even when you can’t see them. Knowing what sounds they normally make and what the sounds mean, can alert you to problems, even when you are out of sight of your animals.|
|Learn to be observant. Know what the public are doing, what animals on site (both caged and uncaged i.e. squirrels, groundhogs, nesting birds, etc.) are doing. Watch the weather and think about your animals (should they be brought inside?). Listen to weather reports. (Some storms with thunder and lightning can be dangerous to animals, especially in open fields; there is the danger of the animal’s panicking, and running into fences etc. and also the chance of being struck by lightning.) Use your common sense.|
|Don’t take your animals for granted; there are always reasons for activity or inactivity; make sure you know why your stock are behaving in a certain manner.|
|Observe first, then interpret. Observations should be made all day, every day while you are working, as part of your normal routine. In this way animals can be observed in different behaviours – playing, eating, sleeping, etc. Keep a notebook with you at all times to record your observations – don’t rely on memory.|
|Share your observations with colleagues who share an interest or who can learn from your skills. Others may be able to apply your observations to their animals or problems in ways you cannot appreciate. Often simple observations have far reaching implications. Remember that you may not be there when some treatment is needed and others should know what and how you are interpreting data or observations.|
ANIMAL AND KEEPER BEHAVIOUR
Territory, Time Element & Predator/Prey Relationships
Group and Individual Behaviour
Animal Behaviour and the Keeper
Ethology, the biology of behaviour, is the objective study of animals and man from a biological point of view with emphasis on species typical behaviour, its adaptiveness (function) and evolution (Heymer, Ethological Dictionary). Another definition of ethology is the study of an organism’s reaction to its environment. Ethology has been regarded as a science and systematically studied for less than 100 years.
Animal behaviour is very important to the Keeper in the Sanctuary, and any study of behaviour assists the Keeper in doing a better job. Only by knowing the animals can they be properly cared for.
Some of the early animal behaviour studies were based on comparative psychology which inevitably led to anthropomorphism by attributing human characteristics to the animal and interpreting its behaviour in terms of human behaviour. Other approaches interpreted animals as automatic machines. The modern scientists like Tinbergen, Lorenz, von Frisch, Hediger, Mech and other focus on the animal as an individual of a species and then search for that species’ typical behaviour patterns, without any reference necessarily to human behaviours.
Ethology is a young science with many differing approaches and opinions. For the purpose of managing and caring for Sanctuary animal collections, a knowledge of certain basic principles is essential.
A Keeper must be able to recognize typical or normal behaviour patterns in a species, in order to “read” the animal, and to notice abnormal behaviours. Take the time to observe your animals at various times. A good Keeper knows what their animals are doing when they are not there to observe. Different species very often have different typical behaviour, even when taxonomically closely related. For example, lions typically form family groups while the tiger is a solitary animal, except during mating and raising the young. There is no basis for assuming that typical behaviour is common to or the same in related species, based on collective similarities in anatomy and physiology.
Species should be studied and treated as individuals first; grouping together by common characteristics may then follow.
UNCONDITIONED AND CONDITIONED REFLEXES
Unconditioned reflexes are automatic, innate (unlearned) reactions, such as the closing of the eyelids when some object approaches the eyes, or quickly pulling a limb back from a hot surface.
Conditioned reflexes are indirect reactions associated with experience or knowledge. There are many examples of this reflex in Sanctuary animals, especially with feeding routines, where animals are conditioned to expect food in a particular place at a certain time.
Instinctual behaviour is an innate “programmed” behaviour pattern. Animals are born with these patterns and follow them without conscious knowledge of their purpose. In order to sustain life and assure the survival of the species, these instinctive behaviour patterns are inherited and specific for each species. Some animals’ behavioural repertoire is largely instinctive, with very little learning (as in snakes) whereas other animals such as primates learn most of their behaviour during their lifetime.
The knowledge of instinctive behaviour patterns and their sequences are very important to the Keeper; Keepers who can interpret these patterns and utilize them in their work with Sanctuary animals can make their job easier, safer, less stressful for the animals and more successful in every way.
STIMULUS AND RESPONSE (S/R)
The central nervous system has a selective innate mechanism, triggered by stimuli having meaning to a particular species. The key or sign stimuli and the response they engender, fit together like a lock and key. The animal is “programmed” to respond in a certain way to certain stimuli. Stimuli are species specific; only a particular set of stimuli is of significance to each species, to which it responds with typical reactions. “Releasers” are animal structures which send out or give off key stimuli.
Reproductive behaviour is very complex and may involve a long chain of important steps. it is an effective way of controlling hybridization in nature. Where species are geographically out of contact in a natural wild state, sign stimuli (for reproductive activity) may not vary enough to produce this barrier to interbreeding.
Man’s primary means of communication is vocal, but in animals, motion, pose and colouration are all important communication forms. The Keeper must rely on close observation to interpret an animal’s intention or mental state. Without the specific knowledge of the species under observation, the layman or inexperienced Keeper is likely to interpret animal behaviour in human terms. This does not often lead to accurate observations and can be misleading and dangerous. Aggression is often misinterpreted, such as the sometimes violent precopulatory behaviour in rhinos or the copulatory neck bite in many carnivores.
Expressional behaviour must be studied independently for each species, and even variations in male, female and juvenile behaviour must be recognized.
See the three attached sheets showing expressional behaviors.
TERRITORY, TIME ELEMENT AND PREDATOR PREY RELATIONSHIPS
The following outline of general behaviour and its many facets is very important for the Keeper, because animals in captivity can show all the behaviours of their wild conspecifics, as well as some behaviour stemming from their captive situation. The Keeper must understand that an animal’s exhibit may be its territory, and that a good knowledge of animal behaviour makes a better Keeper.
Animals don’t live completely free in a wild state because their living space is confined by boundaries which are often undetectable to the casual observer. The size of the habitat is determined by the needs of the individual and the species to survive. Distribution or Range is the geographical distribution of a species. Within this range are areas of suitable habitat. Habitat represents the suitable physical area that will support the species. Ecological Niche describes the living space of the animal with emphasis on its role in the community; it is where the species fits into the habitat in relation to the food chain, plant and animal associations.
For example the geographical distribution (range) of the Snow leopard, Panthera uncia, is mainly the mountains of central Asia, the Himalayas and ranges north of Afghanistan, into the USSR, east from Pakistan through northern India, Bhutan, Nepal to Mongolia and China. Its habitat within this range is between the tree line and the permanent snows (3000 to 6000 meters), descending in winter to the upper valleys (1500 to 200 meters). Its ecological niche is that of a large, often solitary predator at the top of the food chain; with no natural predators except man, it preys on wild ungulates, hares, mountain birds and sometimes domestic stock.
Territory is the living area used and occupied by an animal. It may belong to a single individual, a pair, or to a social unit (a group represented by a single dominant animal).
Typical behaviour is associated with the establishment and protection of an animal’s territory. This behaviour, and reproductive behaviour associated with the territory, is unique for each species, and allows several different animal species to live in the same space without rivalry, utilizing different niches within the habitat. Some animal species maintain a territory all year round while others only establish one for breeding, and migrate. It is uncommon for animals to establish territories in areas where they winter-over.
Some animals such as seabirds, some pinnipeds and rodents, live in large colonies, where the population may be very dense. Very small territories (such as nests or breeding sites) are usually established within the colony by individuals.
Territory size is related to the body size of an animal and its feeding habits, with larger animals usually having larger territories than smaller species, and carnivores having larger territories than herbivores.
Not every part of the territory is utilized by the animal; usually trails lead from one area of activity to another. There are preferred routes, whether the medium is air, water, on the ground or through tree tops. Often parts of the territory are used for specific functions, such as sleeping, eating (food may be caught in one place and eaten in another), washing, drinking, and defecation, etc.
Animals will only reluctantly change their pattern of movement, and places of familiarity provide them with security. This “home” aspect is very important to the animal and provides a focus of safety within the territory. Some animals which escape their confinement within the Sanctuary will return to their enclosure (“territory”) if given the option.
The territory is an important possession which may be aggressively defended against conspecific intruders, and to a lesser degree or not at all against other species. The closer species are related to each other, the more likely it is for territorial disputes to occur.
A defended territory is defined by the animal in one or more of several different ways, depending on the species. The demarcation may be optical (visual), acoustic (sound), olfactory (smell) or a combination of these.
|Optical or visual demarcation may involve using the whole body or only parts of it. Hediger calls the demarcation static-optical when the result is achieved by the presence or appearance of the animal’s body in the territorial area (as in the giraffe), and dynamic-optical when the animal uses a specially adapted signaling apparatus in a typical movement (the waving of the claw of the fiddler crab). Form and colour may be important.|
|Acoustic demarcation, such as the singing of birds, the calling of amphibians, the bellowing of alligators and the calling of some primates and insects all serve to denote the animal’s territory.|
|Olfactory demarcation is very common in mammals, with their well developed sense of smell (except for primates). Urine, feces and the products of special glands are used to mark territorial boundaries and important places. Usually scent glands are more developed in males than in females.|
Animals are creatures of habit, moving within their territories in established routines set in time and place. These patterns of movement and activity can often be seen clearly in the Sanctuary. Llamas, and muntjac for instance, establish special places for defecation. Even in small exhibits animals will make use of certain trails and will usually travel on these (or by certain routes) rather than use the whole exhibit. Other parts of the cage may be exclusively reserved for certain activities such as eating and sleeping.
BEHAVIOUR AND TIME
Behaviour in relation to time is based on set laws for different species. There are daily routines or cycles which govern the animal’s periods of activity and rest; often these are determined by the way in which the animal functions in its niche, (for example, nocturnal, diurnal, or crepuscular).During the year different activity periods can be identified. Often their onset or termination is determined by day length. Hibernation, aestivation, migration, breeding and raising young all usually occupy set times.The Keeper must be familiar with the species-typical cycles in order to provide for the changing needs of the animal throughout the year. These needs may be dietary (increase in food or change in kind of food), or adjustments in light cycles, heat or humidity requirements, the provision of nest boxes and dens, etc.
PREDATOR-PREY RELATIONSHIPSFree living animals are often pressed to avoid confrontation with their enemies, including man. Animals in the wild may constantly check their surroundings for danger; in the Sanctuary this can be seen in many animals (waterfowl, primate and rodent groups, meerkat sentries, etc.). Because man is regarded as a universal enemy by nearly all wild animals, we can speak of predator-prey relationships to include enemy-prey relationships.An animal’s normal response to the approach of a predator is the escape reaction, aimed at avoiding the enemy, by fleeing, hiding or camouflage, etc. The escape reaction is specific for sex, age, the kind of enemy, and surroundings.
- Flight Distance: is the measurable distance at which an animal will flee when approached by an enemy. The distance is related to the significance of the intruder, and the individual experiences of an animal can increase or decrease the distance involved. Man can have both a positive (i.e. Keeper) and a negative (i.e. hunter, visiting public) effect. Sometimes, as with protective instinct to defend offspring, the flight distance can be considerably reduced, perhaps even eliminated, or the flight reaction can change to an attack.
- Critical Distance: represents a part of the flight distance. An animal without the choice of escape will tolerate the approach of an enemy up to the point where it is forced to defend itself; the attack/defense takes place within the critical distance range.
GROUP AND INDIVIDUAL BEHAVIOUR
In any interaction within groups of animals we can distinguish different hierarchies or peck orders, which deal with the social position of an animal or a species in relation to other animals of the same or different species within the living space.BIOLOGICAL RANK Biological rank is a hierarchy based on definite rules, among different species which compete for food and space. It implies a state of biological competition in which the competitors generally try to avoid each other. The biologically inferior species yields to the superior species and so fights rarely occur, and the superior species maintains a dominance over feeding places and other areas of interest. This situation is well known in the wild, i.e. gorilla over chimpanzee, grizzly bear over black bear, but zoos face a unique problem when exhibiting together various species not normally associated in a wild state. The Keeper must detect the developing biological rank system and ensure that all animals in the exhibit will have access to food, shelter and be able to relax.SOCIAL RANK
Social rank is the position of the individual within the society of animals of the same species. Most species existing in herds, flocks, packs, and bands, etc., are organized into orders of preference, each clearly defined in relation to the others. Every individual maintains a certain position or rank with clearly defined behaviour patterns. The organization of some societies may be simple and linear, while others are very complex social structures.
The top position, the premier or alpha position is occupied by the lead animal, and confers more privileges on that animal than any other in the group. Some species, (such as lemurs, red deer, sparrows) always have a female as the alpha animal, while other species (most monkeys, bison, guanacos, pheasants) always have a male. Rhesus monkeys and Japanese macaques can have a male or a female alpha animal.
The alpha dominant animal isn’t always the animal which leads or guides the group in movement, i.e. in cervids the dominant male will follow a subordinate possibly as a safety precaution, while in other animals such as the elephant high ranking males may act as herd rearguards.
An individual’s social rank may be determined by physiological characteristics not just physical strength. If the alpha animal loses its hold on the top position, the next highest animal may take over. It is thought that each individual has an established social rank, with the most submissive animal at the very bottom of the hierarchy: this animal has no subordinate, just as the alpha animal has no superior. The established group structure enables the group to replace a leader with a minimum of disturbance and disorder which might endanger the species. The members must constantly show the dominant and or submissive behaviour appropriate to their ranks to other group members. Young animals in the group are generally the freest, until they reach a socially important age. Up to this point they aren’t required to adhere to the rules of the rank system, and may take liberties denied other adult animals.
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