Research published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences highlights that improvements in medicine and care have led to an increase in the life expectancy of animals living under human care.
A study published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences has found that marine mammals kept in zoos and aquariums live two to three times longer than their counterparts in the wild. It states that “advances in welfare-focused animal care practices” have led to an increase in the life expectancy of marine mammals living in human care.
The authors used the same statistical methods used to assess improvements in human population welfare to analyse data from the world’s largest database of information on wild animals in human care, the Species360 Zoological Information Management System (ZIMS).
It was revealed that the life expectancy of the four marine mammal species analysed (bottlenose dolphin, California sea lion, harbour seal, and polar bear) has tripled, and that the mortality rate in the first year of life has decreased by up to 31% over the last century in the zoos and aquariums included in the study.
These improvements in the way modern zoos and aquariums care for animals are the result of the establishment of regional and national zoo associations, accreditation standards, coordinated husbandry programmes, shared databases and professional networks that foster knowledge exchange, thereby collectively improving animal welfare.
The results of this study contribute to the current dialogue on animal welfare in zoos and aquariums. They demonstrate the importance of scientific research and zoological institutions in understanding and improving the lives of animals. Preliminary results have already informed legislative decisions in France and Spain, guiding evidence-based decisions on the care of marine mammals in these environments.