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The Environmental Husbandry Manual
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One may ask just what is Environmental Husbandry ?

The answer is quite straightforward. It is all of the methods used to care for and improve the welfare of captive animals. Environmental Husbandry encompasses both the general husbandry techniques necessary for the daily care and maintenance of animals, and also environmental enrichment, the practice of improving the conditions in which captive animals live, by stimulating the senses, or by providing for the physical and mental needs of the animal.

Many techniques outlined might not be called ‘enrichment’ by those who look after animals, but rather ‘standard practice’. By distinguishing some methods as enrichment, an impression is created that these are a luxury, to be dealt with when the zoo has sufficient funding, or keepers the time and inclination to carry out the process. Until quite recently, standard practice in most zoos was to keep animals in bare concrete enclosures where they could be seen clearly, and the enclosure hosed down regularly to wash away urine and faeces. It is worthwhile to show that positive, alternative husbandry methods to these exist.

This manual was compiled during a year I spent at Edinburgh Zoo working as a volunteer research assistant. It is intended to cover the devices and methods used by the keepers at Edinburgh Zoo, with appraisals and comments by keepers on the method. Specialist techniques such as dietary supplements may be mentioned, along with suggested means of inducing animals to eat them, but the supplements are not dealt with specifically, as specialist advice should be sought before using them.

The manual is not, however, intended to list every possible method. The policy at Edinburgh Zoo is that there are always new approaches to be tried. Using items illustrated here does not mean that new ways to enrich and improve on the environment should not be tested, or husbandry techniques devised that reduce stress and improve upon animal welfare.

The manual is divided into categories comprising of: enclosure design, feeding methods and devices, social husbandry, sensory enrichment, and substrates or toys for manipulatory interest. All animals have been included in these categories, rather than specifying items for primates, birds, etc. There may be considerable overlap in methods used with different animals, and many items may be adapted for use with new species, either directly, or with a little ingenuity.

The manual additionally covers health and safety considerations of new techniques, and items that have been tried and found unsuccessful, but which would either work if altered, or should not be used as they are a potential hazard.

The author may be contacted at gordon.mcleod@ntlworld.com

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