A Multi-Institutional Assessment of Factors Influencing Locomotion and Pacing in Captive Okapis (Okapia Jonhstoni)

Author(s)Cynthia Bennett, Lauri Torgerson-White, Deborah Fripp & Jason Watters
Year Published2015
JournalJournal of Applied Animal Welfare Science
Page NumbersS43–S61
Size508.61 KB

The okapi (Okapia johnstoni), native to the Democratic Republic of Congo, is a large, solitary, and diurnal forest-dwelling ungulate highly sensitive to captive conditions. The captive population demonstrates persistent health problems, reproductive abnormalities, and several potentially abnormal repetitive behaviors. This study reports on locomotion and pacing in adult male and female
okapis. Commonly, data on repetitive behavior have been derived from surveys. Although insightful, the results are often highly generalized and provide little information about the true preponderance and nature of such behavior in a population. In this study, direct observations determining how often and when a behavior of interest occurs are paired with information on factors (intrinsic and extrinsic) that can impact a nonhuman animal’s propensity to perform repetitive behavior. More than half of the North American okapi population comprised the study population. Each animal was studied for 2 summer and winter seasons. Factors predictive of pacing in both males and females included 3 housing and habitat factors and 4 management factors. Patterns of locomotion and the rate and pattern of pacing in males when compared with females suggested different mechanisms may be driving these behaviors in the different sexes and that a sex-specific management strategy would benefit this species.

Keywords: okapi, captive wildlife, abnormal repetitive behavior, stereotypy, zoos
Authors: Cynthia Bennett, Lauri Torgerson-White, Deborah Fripp & Jason Watters
Journal: Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science

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