Improving snow leopard welfare
Improving snow leopard (Panthera uncia) welfare through development of a Wildpro volume, enrichment, operant conditioning and diet modification
Diet, mental stimulation and a preventative healthcare regime are the cornerstones to good animal welfare, high standards of animal health and successful breeding, which is vital for this species.
A new naturalistic exhibit for snow leopards was completed in 2010 as part of our new visitor centre ‘Himalaya’. From the original design concept and discussions with the animal department, the ability to provide high standards of animal management, as well as incorporating improved enrichment techniques and operant conditioning capabilities, was always a key factor.
Animal department representatives were involved throughout and were responsible for reviewing other felid developments, using ZooLex, and researching new enrichment and operant conditioning techniques. Key considerations included the importance of high quality off‐exhibit separation facilities and an easy means of regularly weighing the snow leopards. Encompassing our zoo‐wide operant conditioning programme, it was important for us to incorporate means of training and management of the animals to reduce, or negate, the need for invasive veterinary procedures.
With that in mind, a transfer race running the length of the den block was incorporated into the design, with a squeeze cage as the main entrance/exit point between the dens and main exhibit. A weigh plate was built into the floor of the squeeze cage which enables the keepers to obtain daily weights of the snow leopards as they pass through.
The completed exhibit provides a well functioning building and a modern, efficient working environment for the keeper that addresses all areas of animal management and welfare.
WINNER of BIAZA Award 2011 for Significant advances in husbandry and welfare