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Research: Introduction

Traditionally, animals were kept in zoos for the purpose of human entertainment, and there was little commitment to animal welfare standards. Assessing the role of zoos in wildlife conservation. As public attitudes toward the use of animals have changed, many zoos have responded by moving away from entertainment and toward conservation. The public face of zoos: Images of entertainment, education and conservation.  Alongside this transformation came an increased focus on animal welfare. This focus has resulted in an intensification of zoo-based science dedicated to;

 (a) Evaluating the success of conservation aims. 

 (b) The impact of the zoo environment on animal behavior and welfare. How does the zoo environment affect the behavior of captive primates?

This focus on empirical operating philosophies for zoos has led to the development of zoo animal welfare science as a specialization within the broader field of welfare science.

Research is an integral component of successful zoo-based conservation. UWEC is committed to conducting quality research that provides opportunities for scholars involved in wildlife research using our facilities to conduct ex-situ research. 

Researching captive animals increases our knowledge on their care and biology, which may not be possible in the wild. UWEC is home to more than 500 animals from nearly 100 species many of which are endangered in the wild and in conservation breeding programmes. Many of the animals were injured, confiscated or orphaned. There are a variety of animals which include; Carnivores, Hoof storks, Primates, Birds, and Reptiles

UWEC has breeding programmes aimed at preserving threatened species and creating stable populations. These involve capture and release, multiplication and free ranging.

We support research which improves animal welfare and health that promote conservation. We are committed to supporting high quality research at all levels from high school projects to post-doctorate theses. Our research facilities include a library, computers with standard software, internet access, access to zoo animal records and a database of zoo-specific documents

Our focus is on applied research that has tangible outcomes for the following key thematic areas:

  • Captive breeding of threatened species and re-introduction
  • Animal Health and well-being
  • Reproductive management and collection sustainability
  • Mitigation of key threatening processes
  • Community conservation and visitor engagement

UWEC will continue to identify and develop specific research projects that address key knowledge gaps and aim to improve our conservation and animal care activities.

We have a Projects and Research Committee that co-ordinates the research projects, including research conducted at our premises, in the field, and in partnership with other research organizations. Our Onsite and Outreach Conservation team also engages in research that allows us to increase the effectiveness of our behavior change campaigns, visitor experiences and education goals.

UWEC welcomes research proposals from external organisations (e.g. universities, government agencies and other zoos). All proposals are evaluated against a set of criteria to determine their alignment with our research and organisational priorities with approval dependent on feasibility, resources and animal welfare and ethical considerations.