UFAW Wild Animal Welfare Award

This award is no longer offered by UFAW. Information on past recipients can be seen below.

Initially launched as the Zoo Animal Welfare Award in 1986, this award initially aimed to promote and celebrate improvements in zoo animal husbandry and housing. It offered an annual award for the best new or improved zoo animal accommodation. In 2004 it became the Wild Animal Welfare Award which sought to recognise significant innovations or advances for the welfare of wild animals: either (i) towards alleviating or preventing harm caused by humans to the welfare of free-living wild animals or (ii) towards improving the welfare of wild animals in captivity. Winners received £1000 together with a Wild Animal Welfare Award certificate. The last of these awards was made in 2010.

Past Winners:

The winner of the initial zoo animal welfare award was Drusillas Zoo Park, East Sussex, for their ‘Beaver Country’ exhibit in 1987. Past winners of the Wild Animal Welfare Award have included: the Food and Environment Research Agency for their new ‘Wild mammal and bird training course’; the Game Conservancy Trust for its ‘Mink Raft’ a novel mink detection system that helps minimise risks to non-target species when trapping these animals for water vole conservation; Bristol Zoo Gardens for designing improved, silicon, flipper bands for population studies of free-living African penguins and Paignton Zoo for incorporating positive reinforcement training into the care of housed primates.

Training course receives 2010 UFAW Wild Animal Welfare Award

past winnersThe 2010 Wild Animal Welfare Award was presented to Dr Julie Lane, Team Leader of the Ethical Review Team at FERA, the Food and Environment Research Agency, for their ‘Wild mammal and bird training course’.

As human pressures on the environment grow, there is increasing need for research into aspects of the ecology, control or conservation of free-living wild animals – many thousands of mammals and birds are involved in such research each year. The new training course has been developed by Dr Lane and her colleagues at FERA (Vicky Jackson, Anne Hudson and Matt Brash) and the University of York (Dr Pat Coulson) to provide training for researchers working with wild animals aimed at improving best practice in the capture, handling, marking and release of mammals and birds.

mouse in trapThis year’s Award was presented to Dr Lane at the popular UFAW bi-annual conference on ‘Recent advances in animal welfare science’ held at the Merchant Adventurers Hall, York, on 30th June. The conference reflects the increasing interest in animal welfare science and in improving our knowledge of, and the way we care for, animals – an appropriate occasion for the presentation of the Award to the FERA team.

Zoos win awards for animal welfare

The Universities Federation for Animal Welfare (UFAW) announced two winners for 2007 in its annual Wild Animal Welfare Award scheme: Bristol Zoo Gardens has won the ‘welfare of free-living wild animals’ category for its development and testing of a new type of animal-friendly flipper band for penguins; and for its study determining the beneficial effects of botanical visitor barriers on the behaviour and welfare of mandrills, Chester Zoo has won the ‘welfare of captive wild animals’ category.

past winnersFlipper banding is a practice used by field biologists to enable monitoring of wild penguin populations for conservation purposes. However, traditional metal bands have caused concerns for possible negative impacts, for example on breeding success and for causing drag while swimming, snagging on vegetation and feather wear. A new silicon band, designed by Peter Barham of Bristol University, has been manufactured and tested by Bristol Zoo for the last five years – initially on penguins at the zoo and subsequently on wild birds on Robben Island, South Africa. The silicon bands were found to have successfully addressed these concerns.

By winning this award, Bristol Zoo aims to increase the use of the bands with African penguins in the wild. Fitting fledglings with them each year will provide a group of known individuals that can be monitored with no detrimental impact on the population. In addition, the availablity of these bands to the wider zoo community should result in the improved management and welfare of captive birds. 

past winnersChester Zoo, in collaboration with Durham University, conducted a ‘before and after’ study of the effect of using plants as a partial visual barrier between visitors and the glass front of a mandrill enclosure. Significant reductions in stress-related behaviours followed installation of the botanical barrier.

Mandrills, the world’s largest species of monkey, were monitored at the zoo and it was found that the presence of visitors caused them to exhibit abnormal and aggressive behaviours such as banging the glass, baring teeth and hair plucking. Planting produced an immediate reduction in these behaviours and an increase in positive behaviours such as playing and feeding.

Chester Zoo plans to use its award to conduct research into the effects of swing poles on Bornean and Sumatran orang-utans. Swing poles are designed to replicate the movement of trees and branches, and allow the apes to use various natural forms of locomotion as they travel around their enclosures. Swing poles will be trialled in the new ‘Realm of the Red Ape’ exhibit at Chester Zoo in the coming months.

“Studies of wild animals, in captivity and in the wild, are essential if, as the human population continues to rapidly expand, we are to find ways to co-exist without harming other species. These projects are excellent examples of scientific studies aimed at improving welfare in our interactions with other animals,” said UFAW’s Chief Executive and Scientific Director, Dr James Kirkwood.

Paignton Zoo wins 2005 UFAW Wild Animal Welfare Award

apes in a zooPaignton Zoo Environmental Park received the 2005 Wild Animal Welfare Award from the Universities Federation for Animal Welfare (UFAW) for their work with Colobus monkeys. The Wild Animal Welfare Award is made annually by UFAW, an internationally recognised scientific and educational animal welfare charity, in recognition of innovations that aim to improve the welfare of captive wild animals or which alleviate or prevent harm from human activities to animals in the wild.

The presentation of this year’s Award was made on behalf of UFAW on Tuesday November 15th at Paignton Zoo by Dr Miranda Stevenson, the Director of BIAZA (British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums).

Paignton Zoo Research Associate Dr Vicky Melfi received on behalf of the Zoo a cheque for £1000, a plaque to put up by the Colubus enclosure and a certificate. Her work involved training individual Colobus monkeys to take fruit juice from syringes, so providing a more welfare-friendly method of delivering medication. 

Dr Melfi’s study looked at the impact of training on the welfare of Colobus monkeys. The results showed that training as part of the husbandry regime made for healthier animals and had no adverse effect on natural behaviours. It meant staff could perform routine health checks and deliver medication without having to catch and tranquilise individual animals. 

Dr Vicky Melfi said “Our results showed that training Colobus monkeys at Paignton Zoo led to significant welfare benefits. It is important to remember that different species may respond differently, so more research in this area is vital. This project was highly collaborative, involving science, mammal and veterinary staff at the zoo.”

The judges considered her work to be important to the advancement of zoo animal welfare, describing the project as “A model of how to apply science to a practical issue.”

Dr James Kirkwood, UFAW’s Chief Executive and Scientific Director, said “What stood out about this application was their rigorous and well-thought out approach to a practical problem that they had encountered with their Colobus. Not only did they identify that training the Colobus would improve the health of the animals by facilitating regular veterinary inspections, but that it also presented an opportunity to collect information about the impact of training on the welfare and behaviour of the animals. Such information is a valuable addition to the on-going debate about the role of training in improving captive wild animal care.”

The money from the award will be used to support further research at Paignton Zoo and contribute towards the cost of hosting a second mammal training workshop for other zoo professionals. (the first was held in 2003).

Mink Raft Wins UFAW Wild Animal Welfare Award 2004

The first wild animal welfare award given by the Universities Federation for Animal Welfare has been won by Dr. Jonathan Reynolds of The Game Conservancy Trust for his innovative mink raft which allows the predators to be trapped without harming other species.

The £1000 award was presented by Ben Bradshaw, Minister for Nature Conservation and Fisheries, at the The Royal Society, Kensington Gore, London.  The UFAW award recognises innovations that are relevant to improving the welfare of captive wild animals or which alleviate or prevent harm of human origin to animals in the wild.

Mink first established themselves in Britain in the 1950’s after being released from fur farms.  They are now found throughout the British Isles, where they have had a disastrous impact on water vole populations which have declined by 90% in some areas.  The water vole is now a priority species under the UK Biodiversity Action Plan which recognises the need to control mink to conserve dwindling numbers.

Dr James Kirkwood, UFAW’s scientific director says:  “We were impressed with the mink raft as it is simple, cheap and enables efficient monitoring or capture without compromising the welfare of non-target species.  A drawback with many trapping systems is that they are often unselective and need to be used in large numbers over long periods of time to take effect.  This results in many non-target species such as moorhen and water vole being captured which is obviously undesirable.  It’s important that welfare is taken into account in all aspects of wildlife management including trapping.  We hope that this award encourages a scientific approach to tackling welfare concerns in this field.”

The raft is essentially a mink detector which guides trapping efforts to create an incisive population control programme.  A tunnel on the raft houses a simple cartridge which records the footprints of any visiting animals in a moist clay and sand mixture.  By showing where mink are active, the raft avoids wasting trapping efforts at locations without mink and also reduces non-target captures.

When a mink is detected, a trap placed in the raft tunnel typically catches within ten days.  After capture, the raft is returned to monitoring mode to check whether other mink are present.  Continued monitoring guides further trapping and provides crucial feedback about its impact on mink numbers.  This was the missing element that previously created much uncertainty about the value of mink trapping.  The raft even chronicles the recovery of water voles!

The mink raft is being used by Wildlife Trusts and other conservation bodies in Hampshire, Wiltshire, Devon, Kent, Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex, Cheshire, Cumbria, Aberdeenshire and Somerset.