Husbandry Guidelines for Eared Seals (Otariidae).
Edited and Compiled by the EAZA Marine Mammal TAG. Ouwehands Dierenpark, Rhenen
Husbandry guidelines are housing and care guidelines with the objective to guarantee optimal conditions for wellbeing and reproduction of captive populations. It has to fulfil the need for cooperation and information exchange between EAZA zoos and to improve husbandry knowledge.
The marine mammal TAG is responsible for writing the guidelines for marine mammals. The goal of this study is to design husbandry guidelines for keeping eared seals (Otariidae) in captivity, by giving an overview of all aspects concerning the responsible husbandry and care of eared seals. To accomplice this objective the following research question had to be answered: How to guarantee the optimal conditions for welfare and reproduction of eared seals in EAZA zoos?
This manual for husbandry of captive eared seals is compiled by studying the biology and field data, as well as the management in captivity of eared seals. The current situation was described, literature research was performed, extra important subjects were determined, experts were consulted and finally all this data was brought together. The structure of the husbandry guidelines is set up according to the standard table of contents assessed by EAZA.
The husbandry guidelines are divided in two parts in which both the data of wild animals and the management in captivity are described. In section A information is given on the biology and field data of eared seals, which is important for good management of husbandry in captivity, to adjust the captive situations as much as possible to the needs of the animals. Extra attention was paid to the six species kept in EAZA zoos. In section B the management in captivity is described. In the first chapter the enclosure for eared seals is described including minimum requirements for the dimensions. Extra attention was paid to good alternatives for chlorine water treatment systems.
Chapter two deals with the feeding; the fish species and quantity were described, as well as the process of maintaining quality during transport, storage and thawing. Chapter three is about behaviour and social structure. Behaviour problems were discussed and advice is given to prevent them. By social structure the composition and group size is an important factor in wellbeing. Attention was paid to changing group structure and sharing the enclosure with other species. In chapter four the different tools for enriching eared seals in captivity are summarised. In chapter five the different stages of reproduction in captivity are described, with attention for the changes in behaviour. Different methods for weaning and forced feeding were given. Chapter six is about all handling procedures. First the catching and restraining were discussed, then transport, followed by safety and finally the training of eared seals. In chapter seven information of recent literature sources concerning the health and welfare of captive eared seals were included. Chapter eight is about the population management of the animals present in the EAZA zoos. National and European legislation is described in chapter nine. In chapter ten suggestions for additional research are given. In the attachments the following parts are included: the EAZA standards for accommodation and care of wild animals in zoos, Canadian and American legislation concerning space requirements and a checklist for the building of an enclosure for eared seals.
Most information is based on experiences and not on scientific knowledge. Additional research is necessary to lay down the knowledge of people working in the field of marine mammal husbandry and to extend the scientific knowledge. A more exhaustive literature study and consulting of experts can give more specific guidelines.