Species with specific environmental adaptations may show specific behavioral adaptations, difficulty in adapting to a new environment, and hence suboptimal functioning and fitness. Discrepancy between natural behavioral adaptations and behavioral possibilities in captivity may cause welfare problems. Aim of the project is to estimate a species’ suitability for living in captivity, assess welfare, suggest environmental changes, and find species characteristics that underlie welfare problems in zoo animals. Databases of species characteristics are set-up using literature of natural behavior (1) and captive behavior (2). Species characteristics are grouped in eight functional behavioral ecological fitness-related categories related to space, time, metabolic, safety, reproductive, comfort, social and information adaptations using a model of welfare optimization. Assessments of the strength of behavioral adaptations in relation to environmental needs are made based on results available from literature. The databases with literature on species level are coupled with databases of behavioral observations (3) and welfare assessments (4) under captive conditions. The represented structure produces best professional judgments, shows discrepancies between environmental responses in different environments and suggests ways for improvement (environmental changes). The functional behavioral category approach is compared with and incorporates principles, methods and outcomes developed in the Welfare Quality® project. Behavioral data from many MSc-projects covering 10 Dutch zoos and 45 species are used (mammals, birds and reptiles). In conclusion, the comparison of the complete repertoire of behaviours in natural and zoo environments highlights welfare problems, the solution of welfare problems by environmental changes and the species characteristics underlying zoo animal welfare problems.
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