The invisible cat – time budget in lynx in two large Swedish zoos

University essay from SLU/Dept. of Animal Environment and Health

Abstract: Felids are solitary crepuscular animals, many of them with large home ranges. Due to the expansion of humanity many of them are also endangered and part of conservation programs. To manage felids in captivity with optimal welfare presents several problems. Stereotypic behaviours are frequent and breeding successes falter. Even though much work already is done to enrich and improve the life of felids in captivity more research is needed to find possible causes to decline in welfare. Coordinated studies of various species of felids in multiple zoos using the same methodology are scarce. This study is a part of the first such coordinated study of several felids in Sweden and the aim of the study was to research the time budget and activity pattern of the Eurasian lynx in two Swedish zoos. In order to find out if the lynx keeps a natural activity pattern in captivity or has adapted to the zoo’s time-line the aim of the study was to address the following questions; How active or passive are the lynx in captivity? How much are they seen by the visitors? Does stereotypic pacing occur and if so, is the behaviour an indication of decreased animal welfare? Are there any differences between Borås Zoo and Nordens Ark in these aspects? And if there are any differences, in what way are they expressed and why? During day-time the most common registration of the lynxes in total was out of sight as was also the most common registration of the lynxes in Borås Zoo. At Nordens Ark the lynx were laying or sleeping almost 40% of the time. Research has shown that felids in captivity lower their activity level when visitors are present. Whether the passivity was an expression of natural day-time behaviour or because of decreased welfare could not be determined in this study. The lynx at Nordens Ark are both more active and more visible than the lynx in Borås Zoo. The level of activity varied greatly between the individuals (15, 35, 43, 53 and 80 % respectively) but all animals show a drop in activity during midday. Stereotypic pacing differed among the animals. It was more common in males and in Borås Zoo but the variation over time is very much alike in the two most frequently pacing animals although they are from different zoos. There is no detectable pattern in the stereotypic pacing by those individuals and further research is needed to find the cause to the behaviour, the best way to counter it and to assure optimal welfare.

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