Paper Type

Master's Thesis


College of Arts and Sciences

Degree Name

Master of Science in Biology (MS)



NACO controlled Corporate Body

University of North Florida. Department of Biology

First Advisor

Dr. Adam Rosenblatt

Second Advisor

Dr. Quincy Gibson

Rights Statement

Third Advisor

Dr. Gregory Kohn

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Terry Maple

Department Chair

Dr. Matthew Gilg

College Dean

Dr. George Rainbolt


Animal welfare science is a field that focuses on how we can improve the lives and well-being of animals in human care. Modern welfare science has moved away from simply preventing suffering and on to promoting positive welfare states, a concept that has been coined animal “wellness”. A process called evidence-based zoo management has been implemented in many zoos as a way to promote and ensure wellness. This is the idea that husbandry and housing standards should be evaluated and tested for their efficacy using data rather than relying on traditional best practices. In this manuscript we discuss an informal series of steps that can be followed in two case studies of evidence-based management at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens. The first explores the process of evaluating a new feeding enrichment for the zoo’s five adult alligators. Outcomes of the enrichment with regards to behavioral goals are discussed as well as shortcomings of the method, including ease of implementation and issues with group social dynamics. The second case study follows the Animal Wellness research team as we evaluated an existing welfare concern with the zoo’s two male coyotes. In particular, pacing and resting behaviors were compared before and after a reduction of staff activity in their immediate environment. These studies aim to provide examples of how an evidence-based method can be successful in informing management decisions and interventions in the zoo environment and how we can use this method to ensure wellness/optimal welfare for zoo animals.