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Visual body condition scoring in zoo animals – composite, algorithm and overview approaches


Schiffmann, Christian; Clauss, Marcus; Hoby, Stefan; Hatt, Jean-Michel (2017). Visual body condition scoring in zoo animals – composite, algorithm and overview approaches. Journal of Zoo and Aquarium Research, 5:1-10.

Abstract

Various body condition scoring (BCS) methods have been developed as management tools in zoo animal husbandry. In contrast to BCS for farm animals, where visual and palpable features are used, these protocols are mainly restricted to visual cues. Considering their inherent subjectivity, such methods face scepticism as their reliability is questioned. In terms of their respective methodology, composite BCS (where individual body regions are scored and a sum or mean is calculated), algorithm BCS (where a score is achieved by following a flow chart) and overview BCS protocols (where a score is given based on overall appearance) can be distinguished. In order to compare their practicability and consistency, we conducted a test with veterinary students (n=18) scoring an equal number (n=15) of African (Loxodonta africana) and Asian elephant (Elephas maximus) photographs using three different protocols. The composite approach showed least inter-observer consistency, while the overview protocol led to the highest differentiation of individual elephant condition. When regularly assessed, visual body condition scoring may serve as an important tool for the health surveillance and complete the medical history of individual zoo animals. Nonetheless, a validation process for each protocol developed should be carried out before its application. Further research might concentrate on long-term, individual-based body condition monitoring, using archives of standardised photographs.

Abstract

Various body condition scoring (BCS) methods have been developed as management tools in zoo animal husbandry. In contrast to BCS for farm animals, where visual and palpable features are used, these protocols are mainly restricted to visual cues. Considering their inherent subjectivity, such methods face scepticism as their reliability is questioned. In terms of their respective methodology, composite BCS (where individual body regions are scored and a sum or mean is calculated), algorithm BCS (where a score is achieved by following a flow chart) and overview BCS protocols (where a score is given based on overall appearance) can be distinguished. In order to compare their practicability and consistency, we conducted a test with veterinary students (n=18) scoring an equal number (n=15) of African (Loxodonta africana) and Asian elephant (Elephas maximus) photographs using three different protocols. The composite approach showed least inter-observer consistency, while the overview protocol led to the highest differentiation of individual elephant condition. When regularly assessed, visual body condition scoring may serve as an important tool for the health surveillance and complete the medical history of individual zoo animals. Nonetheless, a validation process for each protocol developed should be carried out before its application. Further research might concentrate on long-term, individual-based body condition monitoring, using archives of standardised photographs.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:05 Vetsuisse Faculty > Veterinary Clinic > Department of Small Animals
Dewey Decimal Classification:570 Life sciences; biology
630 Agriculture
Language:English
Date:2017
Deposited On:09 Feb 2017 14:52
Last Modified:28 Apr 2017 07:25
Publisher:EAZA
ISSN:2214-7594
Free access at:Official URL. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.19227/jzar.v5i1.252
Official URL:http://www.jzar.org/jzar/article/view/252

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