Association for Behavior Analysis International

The Association for Behavior Analysis International® (ABAI) is a nonprofit membership organization with the mission to contribute to the well-being of society by developing, enhancing, and supporting the growth and vitality of the science of behavior analysis through research, education, and practice.


44th Annual Convention; San Diego, CA; 2018

Event Details

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B. F. Skinner Lecture Series Paper Session #326

Zoo Animal Welfare: Implications for the World’s Most Iconic Species

Sunday, May 27, 2018
5:00 PM–5:50 PM
Marriott Marquis, San Diego Ballroom B
Area: AAB; Domain: Service Delivery
CE Instructor: Valeri Farmer-Dougan, Ph.D.
Chair: Valeri Farmer-Dougan (Illinois State University)
GREG VICINO (San Diego Zoo Global)
Greg has spent the past 25 years straddling the line between animal care, behavioral research, conservation, and animal welfare. A unique set of circumstances has positioned him to apply this experience to a myriad of species in virtually every context. After studying Biological Anthropology at UCDavis, Greg went on to work for the University, first as an animal care specialist, and then as a Research Associate. He worked on projects ranging from vocal and social development, to geriatric cognition and aggression. His laboratory experience allowed him to ease back into animal management, applying science to the art of animal husbandry. He has consulted extensively on non-human primate socialization and group formation as well as behavior based enrichment programs and welfare monitoring. When he returned to his home town in 2007 to begin working for the San Diego Zoo he was invited to develop a more modern enrichment program, and ultimately form a comprehensive animal welfare program. He has focused on promoting positive indicators of welfare, as well as mitigating negative indicators all within the framework of a species natural behavioral repertoire. By emphasizing the frequency and diversity of behavior, he and his team have worked on developing integrated management strategies that exploit the adaptive relevance of behavior and making behavior meaningful for managed populations. This strategy is designed to be applicable to all species both captive and wild and he has extensive experience in the Middle East and East Africa applying these concepts to in-situ conservation programs and rehab/re-release sites. Greg has continued to work towards his institutes' mission of ending extinction, and has staunchly stood by the idea that all animals should be given an opportunity to thrive.

Modern zoos continue to transform both their mission and their execution as they reach the end of a decade’s long transition from animal attractions to sincere conservation entities. A heightened awareness of the science of animal welfare, the value of measuring behavioral outcomes, and the realization that zoos represent the last hope for many species has thrust us into a paradigm driven by natural history. The aim of this lecture is to highlight the modern approach to zoo animal welfare and the prevalence of behavioral science and its application to effective conservation programs. By using examples of how modern science has helped the management and conservation of species like the African elephant, I will review some of applications of zoo-based findings on in-situ conservation programs. I will cover some of the metrics used to measure animal welfare in zoos, as well as how the frequency and diversity of behavior can be used as a functional indicator of animal welfare. Finally, I will outline some of the strategies used to turn caretakers into stakeholders, primarily in cultures where animal husbandry and welfare are viewed in contrasting terms.

Target Audience:

Board certified behavior analysts; licensed psychologists; graduate students.

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the presentation, participants will be able to: (1) understand zoo animal welfare; (2) understand the connection between animal welfare and wildlife conservation; (3) describe the current tools in use at modern zoos related to animal welfare.



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