Association of British and Irish
Wild Animal Keepers

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Animal Management

ABWAK is committed to continually raising standards of wild animal management through the annual symposia, regional workshops, Ratel and other publications.  This page does not profess to be comprehensive guide to the management of wild animal species in captivity.  This is rather a broad philosophy that should underpin wild animal management practices.

In recent years, wider animal welfare legislation and practice has been largely informed by the so called ‘five freedoms’ in the United Kingdom.  Wild animal management is no exception.
1. Freedom from Hunger and Thirst – animals must have permanent access to fresh drinking water and diet formulation should reflect the macro and micro nutrient requirements of a given species.  Moreover, food should be presented to animals in a manner likely to stimulate natural foraging behaviour.
2. Freedom from Discomfort – animals must be provided with a captive environment that has species appropriate opportunities for resting, shelter and generally be protected from environmental conditions likely to cause distress.
3. Freedom from Pain, Injury or Disease – every effort should be made to prevent animals contracting diseases and becoming injured.  Should an animal require medical attention, this must be administered promptly by a suitably qualified person.
4. Freedom to Express Normal Behaviour – animals should be kept in conditions likely to encourage behaviours observed in wild conspecifics.  Activity budgets of captives should, to some extent, mirror those recorded in the wild.  Use of modern enrichment techniques, good enclosure design and appropriate same or other species social grouping can all significantly improve the quality of life of animals.
5. Freedom from Fear and Distress – keepers must effectively monitor their charges for any indicators of stress. Management practices must minimise or preferably eliminate any sources of fear and distress. Many species of wild animals greatly benefit from a safe refuge / house / nestbox that should be disturbed as little as possible.

Wild animal management is a marriage between science and experience, skills and knowledge, some view it as an art akin to the ‘green fingers’ of the gardener others have a more empirical approach.  One thing is certain however, captive wild animals deserve the best standards of care it is practical to deliver.
This website is supported by Chester Zoo