Study of Animal Welfare at the Detroit Zoo

A graduate of the biology program at Ohio’s Oberlin College, Andrew Whiteman of Michigan began working in zoos as an intern in 2009. Andrew Whiteman now volunteers at the Detroit Zoo, in Michigan.

The Detroit Zoological Society, the governing body of the Detroit Zoo, has drawn industry-wide attention in recent years for its innovative Center for Zoo Animal Welfare, or CZAW. The society founded the center in 2009 to promote animal well-being in zoos, both through noninvasive research and as a resource for zoo leaders across the world. CZAW focuses on understanding not only the physical health of animals in zoos, but also their psychological and social health.

Dedicated to studying all aspects of animal welfare, CZAW seeks both to understand the effects of captivity on animals and to develop more welfare-friendly practices for zoos to adopt. This involves in-depth investigation of animal behavior in zoos and an analysis of what these behaviors indicate in regard to the animals’ experience. Researchers then use this data to determine what each species needs to fare better and thrive in captivity, rather than simply maintain an acceptable level of health. CZAW disseminates this information to zoo professionals and to the public, with the goal of initiating a long-term discussion regarding how to steward animals in captivity responsibly.

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