Animal Welfare: Animals After Dark

Stephanie Allard, Ph.D., is the Director of Animal Welfare for the Detroit Zoological Society and oversees the Center for Zoo Animal Welfare.

Have you ever wondered what the animals do at night when the Detroit Zoo is closed? Some animals, like gorillas and lizards, are most active during the day – known as diurnal – others, like aardvarks and beavers, are most active at night – known as nocturnal – and some have other activity patterns.Kaatie the aardvark - Patti Truesdell

It is important for us to understand the activity patterns of the different animals that live at the Zoo because we have a responsibility to meet their needs all of the time – not just when the Zoo is open to our visitors during normal business hours. For some species, there is already a lot of information available about when they are active and when they spend more time resting. This can help us plan how to best provide them with the opportunities they need to thrive. For others, it can be helpful to monitor their behavior so that we can make informed decisions about each individual animal’s care and welfare.

Jabari the giraffeGiraffes are a good example of this, as it is a species that sleeps for short durations several times a day. In the wild, giraffes need to be constantly on alert for predators. Since this is not the case in a Zoo setting, the sleep and activity patterns of giraffes vary, therefore we wanted to determine what they were for the giraffes here. We spent time monitoring the behavior of the 7-year-old adult male giraffe, Jabari, and the 6-year-old female giraffe, Kivuli, during the night and found that they do spend periods of time resting and ruminating. However, they do have activity peaks as well. Having this kind of information presents us with the chance to develop ways to provide them with things like additional foraging and feeding opportunities throughout the night, which we have done.

It is so important that we always seek additional knowledge to help us ensure that the needs of all the animals who call the Zoo home are met, even when we are not there to see it.

– Dr. Stephanie Allard

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