Activity patterns, chronobiology and the assessment of stress and welfare in zoo and wild animals



The organization of life in time, and thus behavioural and physiological rhythms, are vital for all animals. Today, the aspect of ecological time niche is still often underestimated, ignored or rejected and, moreover, knowledge of the species-specific characteristics of natural temporal adaptations is often lacking. For most animals, neglecting time as an important dimension in analyses may lead to serious problems, especially in zoos or agriculture where animals are living under conditions completely dictated by humans or partially exposed to conditions that are often detached from their natural environments. The paper will give examples of studies on Przewalski horse Equus ferus przewalskii in semi-reserves, Red deer Cervus elaphus and Mouflon Ovis orientalis musimon in game enclosures, and on various zoo animals, which show that chronobiological investigations have a high indicative potential and provide an insight into ecological connections. New non-invasive measuring methods and powerful methods of data analysis provide the potential to include chronobiological studies as routine components of modern animal-husbandry methods, in management issues and in monitoring systems for zoo animal welfare.