Paul Rose

An Evaluation of Flamingo Nocturnal Activity

WWT Slimbridge (Centre) - 17th Sep, 2019

Observational data are commonly used to evaluate the appropriateness of husbandry and housing for zoo animals, normally collected during daytime opening hours. However, animal behaviour is not often monitored overnight. Measurement of time-activity budgets and enclosure usage across a 24-hour cycle would yield helpful data on “behavioural normality” in the zoo. Researchers from WWT decided to develop a project built on previous research investigating captive flamingo welfare and behaviour- using data on daytime activity budgets calculated at WWT Slimbridge Wetland Centre alongside of published data on nocturnal behaviour of wild flamingo flocks. This project produced results for two species (greater, Phoenicopterus roseus, and lesser, Phoeniconaias minor, flamingos) and also provided an extension to this research method using a third species- the Andean flamingo (Phoenicoparrus andinus). Night-vision trail cameras placed in and around each enclosure took photos of the birds at given intervals, with behavioural data being recorded by a scan sampling protocol similar to that used in first-hand observations. Results show that flamingos can be more active in the evening and overnight compared to during the daytime. It was also found that wider enclosure usage was noted overnight. Species differences were clear within the findings and lesser flamingos housed indoors had a more restricted nocturnal activity pattern compared to greater flamingos with 24-hour outdoor access. Research such as this is fantastic for real life situations. If flamingos are housed indoors for long periods during disease outbreaks (for example) such evidence on preferential zone usage and degree of nocturnal activity when not space restricted can be useful for enabling naturalistic time budgets when animal health considerations are influencing management practice. This project was in collaboration with WWT, the University of Exeter and Sparsholt College Hampshire (SCH). It was submitted to the BIAZA Research Awards category 2019 by Paul Rose and Marc Boardman, and won a Gold Award.

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