BOVIDS: A deep learning-based software package for pose estimation to evaluate nightly behavior and its application to common elands (Tragelaphus oryx) in zoos.

Ecology and Evolution 12 (3): e8701. https://doi.org/10.1002/ece3.8701


Only a few studies on the nocturnal behavior of African ungulates exist so far, with mostly small sample sizes. For a comprehensive understanding of nocturnal behavior, the data basis needs to be expanded. Results obtained by observing zoo animals can provide clues for the study of wild animals and furthermore contribute to a better understanding of animal welfare and better husbandry conditions in zoos. The current contribution reduces the lack of data in two ways. First, we present a stand-alone open-source software package based on deep learning techniques, named Behavioral Observations by Videos and Images using Deep-Learning Software (BOVIDS). It can be used to identify ungulates in their enclosure and to determine the three behavioral poses “Standing,” “Lying—head up,” and “Lying—head down” on 11,411 h of video material with an accuracy of 99.4%. Second, BOVIDS is used to conduct a case study on 25 common elands (Tragelaphus oryx) out of 5 EAZA zoos with a total of 822 nights, yielding the first detailed description of the nightly behavior of common elands. Our results indicate that age and sex are influencing factors on the nocturnal activity budget, the length of behavioral phases as well as the number of phases per behavioral state during the night while the keeping zoo has no significant influence. It is found that males spend more time in REM sleep posture than females while young animals spend more time in this position than adult ones. Finally, the results suggest a rhythm between the Standing and Lying phases among common elands that opens future research directions.


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