Department of Biology
Concordia University (Loyola Campus)
7141 Sherbrooke St. W. H4B 1R6
Montreal, QC, Canada
Office: SP 301.09
(514) 848-2424 (ext. 4021)
2021 – Present : MSc student in Biology at Concordia University, Montreal, Canada
2017-2020 : BSc Biology in the Animal Physiology orientation at University of Montreal, Montreal, QC, Canada
Ambassador animals welfare: impact of education programs on behavioral and physiological wellbeing.
Ambassador animals represent individuals that are kept in captivity for educational programs like those in zoos. They can be reptiles, amphibians, birds, or mammals who come from different countries in the world to educate the public on various stakes, such as wildlife conservation for example. It happens that these animals are transported, manipulated, and exposed to different stressors that can affect their wellbeing. Since ambassador animals are mainly kept to promote wildlife conservation, it is our responsibility to ensure that resident animals in zoos are in good physical and psychological health. Furthermore, the previously mentioned stressors may have several impacts both between individuals of the same species and between different species, hence the importance of constantly monitoring the animals’ behavioral and physiological wellbeing under their current living conditions. Thus, this project aims to continue research on ambassador animals’ welfare to improve it.
This research will take place in summer 2022 at the Zoo de Granby, which is one of the most important zoos in the province of Quebec, Canada. The Zoo de Granby is an accredited institution of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA), and Canada’s Accredited Zoos and Aquariums (CAZA). It shelters different species from continents around the world and is involved in both public education and wildlife conservation to help preserve nature on our planet. According to their website, the Zoo de Granby is home to almost 1500 individuals belonging to all animal classes which makes it the ideal place for this research.
For my data collection, I will compare the ambassadors’ behavioral and physiological states before and after they are exposed to potential stressors (e.g. handling and transport). I will do focal observation to study their activity budget as well as monitor the expression of abnormal repetitive behavior, also called stereotypic behavior. Stress in animals can generate the secretion of cortisol to help them cope with a difficult situation. To complete my results, I will collect the animals’ feces and analyze their levels of cortisol. With both physiologic and behavior measures, I hope to better understand the variation of stress experienced by several birds, mammals, and reptiles species following educational program activities.
The goal of this project is to study and understand the current sources of stress of animals kept in captivity. Ultimately, this thesis will help improve animal welfare at the Zoo de Granby and hopefully in other settings by focusing on four aspects:
- Finding sources of stressors.
- Establishing a baseline and thresholds indicators of wellbeing.
- Studying intra and inter-specific variations.
- Proposing improvements to current management practices.