Behaviour and enclosure use of captive parma wallabies (Macropus parma): an assessment of compatibility within a mixed-species exhibit.
Journal of Zoo and Aquarium Research 6(2) 2018: 63-68.
Many zoos choose to house parma wallabies (Macropus parma) in mixed-species exhibits and a
successful combination of species can provide a source of enrichment. However, there are potential
health and welfare concerns, so it is important to consider species compatibility. This study investigates the effects of mixed-species housing on the parma wallaby. Parma wallabies at Dudley Zoological Gardens were observed for nine days in two different housing systems: mixed species (MS), with Patagonian mara (Dolichotis patagonum), and single species (SS). Scan sampling of all individuals, across a range of behaviours, was carried out for 90 minutes across the day. Differences in foraging behaviour were observed, with wallabies housed in the MS exhibit foraging significantly less than the SS group (W27=899.0, P<0.01). Wallabies in the MS enclosure performed a novel behaviour, agonistic directional urination that was not observed in the SS group. Enclosure use was analysed using a Spread of Participation Index (SPI); values revealed MS wallabies utilised less of their enclosure, with a notable preference for areas not frequented by the mara (W27=899.0, P<0.05). The results suggest that the MS wallabies are affected by the presence of the mara, both behaviourally and in enclosure use, which could be indicative of a negative welfare state. This study provides evidence of species incompatibility, a potential issue for the welfare of captive parma wallabies and the successful maintenance of this species in captivity. Careful and continual monitoring of species within mixed-species enclosures is recommended.