Animals that live under human care are in captivity. Captivity can be used as a generalizing term to describe the keeping of either domesticated animals (livestock and pets) or wild animals. This may include, for example, farms, private homes, and zoos. Keeping animals in human captivity and under human care can thus be distinguished between three primary categories according to the particular motives, objectives and conditions.
The domestication of animals is the oldest documented instance of keeping animals in captivity. This process eventually resulted in habituation of wild animal species to survive in the company of, or by the labor of, human beings. Domesticated species are those whose behaviour, life cycle, or physiology has been altered as a result of their breeding and living conditions under human control for multiple generations. Probably the earliest known domestic animal was the dog, likely as early as 15000 BC among hunter-gatherers in several locations.
Throughout history not only domestic animals as pets and livestock were kept in captivity and under human care, but also wild animals. Some were failed domestication attempts. Also, in past times, primarily the wealthy, aristocrats and kings collected wild animals for various reasons. Contrary to domestication, the ferociousness and natural behaviour of the wild animals were preserved and exhibited. Today's zoos claim other reasons for keeping animals under human care: conservation, education and science.
Behavior of animals in captivity
Captive animals, especially those not domesticated, sometimes develop repetitive and purposeless motor behaviors called stereotypical behaviors. Examples of stereotypical behaviours include pacing around, biting themselves, retracing their steps, and excessive self-grooming. These behaviors are caused by stress and boredom. Many who keep animals in captivity, especially in zoos and related institutions and in research institutions, attempt to prevent or decrease stereotypical behavior by introducing novel stimuli, known as environmental enrichment.
A type of abnormal behavior shown in captive animals is self-injurious behavior (SIB). Self-injurious behavior indicates any activity that involves biting, scratching, hitting, hair plucking, or eye poke that may result in injuring oneself. Although its reported incidence is low, self-injurious behavior is observed across a range of primate species, especially when they experience social isolation in infancy. Self-bite involves biting one’s own body—typically the arms, legs, shoulders, or genitals. Threat bite involves biting one’s own body—typically the hand, wrist, or forearm—while staring at the observer, conspecific, or mirror in a threatening manner. Self-hit involves striking oneself on any part of the body. Eye poking is a behavior (widely observed in primates) that presses the knuckle or finger into the orbital space above the eye socket. Hair plucking is a jerking motion applied to one’s own hair with hands or teeth, resulting in its excessive removal.
The proximal causes of self-injurious behavior have been widely studied in captive primates; either social or nonsocial factors can trigger this type of behavior. Social factors include changes in group composition, stress, separation from the group, approaches by or aggression from members of other groups, conspecific male individuals nearby, separation from females, and removal from the group. Social isolation, particularly disruptions of early mother-rearing experiences, is an important risk factor. Studies have suggested that, although mother-reared rhesus macaques still exhibit some self-injurious behaviors, nursery-reared rhesus macaques are much more likely to self-abuse than mother-reared ones. Nonsocial factors include the presence of a small cut, a wound or irritant, cold weather, human contact, and frequent zoo visitors. For example, a study has shown that zoo visitor density positively correlates with the number of gorillas banging on the barrier, and that low zoo visitor density caused gorillas to behave in a more relaxed way. Captive animals often cannot escape the attention and disruption caused by the general public, and the stress resulting from this lack of environmental control may lead to an increased rate of self-injurious behaviors.
Studies suggest that many abnormal captive behaviors, including self-injurious behavior, can be successfully treated by pair housing. Pair housing provides a previously single-housed animal with a same-sex social partner; this method is especially effective with primates, which are widely known to be social animals. Social companionship provided by pair housing encourages social interaction, thus reducing abnormal and anxiety-related behavior in captive animals as well as increasing their locomotion.
Wild animal keeping
Cruelty to animals and animal welfare
- Animal welfare
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- Rommeck, Ina; Anderson, Kristen; Heagerty, Allison; Cameron, Ashley; McCowan, Brenda (2009). "Risk factors and remediation of self-injurious and self-abuse behavior in rhesus macaques". Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science 12 (1): 61–72. doi:10.1080/10888700802536798.
- Hosey, Geoff R.; Skyner, Lindsay J. (2007). "Self-injurious behavior in zoo primates". International Journal of Primatology 28 (6): 1431–1437. doi:10.1007/s10764-007-9203-z. (subscription required (. ))
- Erwin, J.; Mitchell, G.; Maple, Terry (1973). "Abnormal behavior in non-isolate-reared rhesus monkeys". Psychological Reports 33 (2): 515–523. doi:10.2466/pr0.1918.104.22.1685.
- Wells, Deborah L. (2005). "A note on the influence of visitors on the behavior and welfare of zoo-housed gorillas". Applied Animal Behavior Science 93 (1-2): 13–17. doi:10.1016/j.applanim.2005.06.019. (subscription required (. ))
- Baker, Kate C.; Bloomsmith, Mollie A.; Oettinger, Brooke; Neu, Kimberly; Griffis, Caroline; Schoof, Valérie; Maloney, Margaret (2012). "Benefits of pair housing are consistent across a diverse population of rhesus macaques". Applied Animal Behaviour Science 137 (3-4): 148–156. doi:10.1016/j.applanim.2011.09.010. (subscription required (. ))
- Weed, J.L.; Wagner, P.O.; Byrum, R.; Parrish, S.; Knezevich, M.; Powell, D.A. (2003). "Treatment of persistent self-injurious behavior in rhesus monkeys through socialization: A preliminary report". Contemporary Topics in Laboratory Animal Science 42 (5): 21–23. (subscription required (. ))
- World Association of Zoos and Aquaria
- New York Zoos and Aquarium
- WSPA international website