why do we study animals and nature

The Secret Life of the Zoo There's so much work that takes place behind the scenes at Chester Zoo to ensure the highest standards of welfare and the best care is given to all our animals. all 15,000 of them! When visiting the zoo you may have seen a person, with a clipboard in hand, stood in front of one of the enclosures watching the animals and wondered what they were up to. Well, they re studying the behaviour of our animals. We study animal behaviour to understand what animals do and why they might do it. This can include the way animals find essential resources such as food or shelter, how they choose a suitable mate or how they might avoid danger such as poisonous food or predators. Animal behaviour research has taken a more evolutionary approach over the past 50 years to enable us to understand how animals can adapt and survive which is a particularly useful approach when trying to protect species in challenging environments. By researching animal behaviour we can discover so much about how an animal is and whether it s healthy. We can also learn about an animal s needs and personality traits, and for species that live within groups, we can see how they interact with others. Learning more about the natural behaviour of an animal and how species have adapted to the changing world can provide even better care for the animals we keep here at the zoo. Here, at the zoo, we have conducted behavioural studies with a range of species to ensure that our feeding practices are stimulating and replicate natural foraging behaviour where possible.


Natural behaviour is also extremely important for species involved in reintroduction programmes. Correctly responding to threats in the wild is essential for survival and food sometimes may be difficult to find, so animals need to be able to forage successfully. How do we measure animal behaviour? It can be measured through visual observations either by standing and watching the animal or through the use of camera equipment to take photographs or video footage. We compile a list of all the behaviours we might expect to see for each species. This contains detailed descriptions of each type of behaviour to ensure that whoever is watching the animals can immediately identify the behaviour accurately. There are a few different ways to record the behaviour: you can watch individuals or whole groups at a time and record each occurrence of a particular behaviour (e. g. feeding or tool use, etc. ) or record what each individual is doing at a particular time interval (e. g. every 30 seconds). You can also focus on one particular animal and record every behaviour you see this provides the most detailed measure of behaviour. There are many different factors that can influence how an individual animal behaves, so it s important to record animal behaviour regularly. Social behaviour is of particular interest when new individuals join a group or when an animal is born.


The relationships between individuals within a group can also be really important for breeding success. One of our PhD students is currently looking at the social behaviour of Asian elephants to measure the importance of social bonds, particularly between related individuals in the herd. The way an animal responds to new objects or environments is very important when considering enclosure design and feeding devices ( to discover more about the design and planning processes we went through when building our new orangutan enclosure). Individual behaviour is also important as it tells us how an animal is responding to a new environment or enrichment such a new feeding device. By studying behaviour before and after a change we can monitor how an animal responds. We are currently conducting a long term study of species which have moved into Islands to ensure they have settled well into their new homes. As with all scientific disciplines here at the zoo, the study of animal behaviour plays an important role in achieving our mission of conserving the living world. We can assess how well animals respond to new environments and determine the effectiveness of new enrichment devices or enclosures on stimulating natural behaviours. All studies conducted in zoos should be designed to help conservation efforts; whether this is to learn more about the evolutionary history of a species or to improve the way we care for animals.


Every scientific project should be transferrable to other zoos and the results are made available through scientific publications, conferences and zoo literature such as newsletters and magazines. By learning more about the natural history of animals and the evolutionary reasons for behaviour we can share this information and help to protect many species in the wild that we re at risk of losing to extinction. Meet our behaviour and welfare scientist, Dr Lisa Holmes, and learn more about her role and.
Why do praying mantises display a unique mating system, called sexual cannibalism, where a member of a male-female pair kills and consumes the other during courtship or copulation? At the end of every summer, why do more than 100 million monarch butterflies sweep across North America to overwinter further south in California and Mexico? Animal behavior is the study of these and other questions about why animals behave the way they do. The study of animal behavior begins with understanding how an animal s physiology and anatomy are integrated with its behavior. Both external and internal stimuli prompt behaviors external information (e. g. , threats from other animals, sounds, smells) or weather and internal information (e. g. , hunger, fear). Understanding how genes and the environment come together to shape animal behavior is also an important underpinning of the field. Genes capture the evolutionary responses of prior populations to selection on behavior.


Environmental flexibility gives animals the opportunity to adjust to changes during their own lifetime. Scientists are drawn to the study of animal behavior for varied reasons and the field is extremely broad, ranging from research on feeding behavior and habitat selection to mating behavior and social organizations. Many scientists study animal behavior because it sheds light on human beings. Research on non-human primates, for instance, continues to offer valuable perspectives into the causes and evolution of individual, social, and reproductive human actions. Understanding why some animals help others at the potential cost of their own survival and reproduction, for example, not only gives us insight into their behavior but could also potentially help us to understand the underpinnings of our species' ideas of altruism and sacrifice. Other scientists are motivated by environmental concerns. When we gain insight into animal behavior, we are in a stronger position to understand vexing conservation problems, such as how to save endangered species, assess environmental quality, design nature preserves, and evaluate the importance of human-related threats to survival in otherwise fit animals. To develop a rich understanding of animal behavior, begin with this introductory overview, and then explore the more than twenty other summaries you ll find below.

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