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Feeding live invertebrate prey in zoos and aquaria: Are there welfare concerns?

Keller, Martha
Zoo biology 2017 v.36 no.5 pp. 316-322
animal welfare, aquariums, cognition, emotions, ethics, humans, invertebrates, learning, pain, receptors, zoos
Invertebrates constitute more than 90% of all species on earth, however, as a rule, humans do not regard invertebrates as creatures that can suffer and they are generally seen as creatures that should be eliminated. As a result, the importance of their welfare may be grossly unappreciated. For instance, the feeding of live food is often viewed as a good method of enrichment and invertebrates are commonly used as live prey in many zoological facilities. As a result, zoos may send mixed messages to their patrons in that welfare is considered only for the invertebrates that are part of their zoological collection and not necessarily for the invertebrates used as feed. Research indicates that many invertebrates possess nociceptors, opioid receptors, and demonstrate behavioral responses indicative of pain sensation. In addition, in some taxa, there may be evidence of higher cognitive functions such as emotions and learning, although studies in this area of research are preliminary and sparse. Therefore, the possibility for suffering exists in many invertebrate species and as such, zoological facilities have an ethical responsibility to take their welfare into consideration. This paper discusses the current research regarding invertebrates’ capacity for suffering and discusses methods facilities can use to improve the welfare of their invertebrate live prey.