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By: Sarah Sharkey
An exciting new study was recently undertaken by the staff at Brookfield Zoo. The goal was to find a new method to evaluate the wellbeing of animals in zoos and aquariums.
The researchers looked at immunoglobulin proteins in animals. These proteins have been known to be a marker of physical and psychological well-being in humans for many years. Their findings were published in the journal Hormones and Behavior earlier this month.
The study showed that concentrations of Immunoglobulin A tended to stabilize at a higher level when an animal was showing signs of positive welfare. Oppositely, if an animal is in conditions that create stress the protein level is lower.
Although this is a huge breakthrough, the researchers admit that there is still more that needs to be known in order to establish an immunoglobulin level as a reliable indicator of animal health and wellness. One big reason is that proteins in animals can vary a lot. So immunoglobulin may be a great indicator for some animals, but a different protein may be better for other animals. Only time and future research into this question will show us the answer.
In the meantime, this is a great step towards understanding animal welfare in zoos and aquariums.
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