Assessing the welfare of wild populations of sirenians has required a “generalist” approach. The outcome has been a subjective decision as to whether what the observers are witnessing in an individual or group of animals is normal and whether that has positive or negative consequences. The understanding of sirenian welfare requirements, and a decision process for whether to support and maintain their natural habitats or to try to replicate it in a meaningful way in an artificial captive setting, is still in its early developmental stages and has dynamic qualities that are in need of urgent attention. In this chapter we use the knowledge and observations presented throughout the chapters on sirenians to outline a proposed standard approach for assessing welfare in individuals in wild populations, as well as guidelines for assessing captive groups of dugongs and manatees. In the wild, the suitability of the habitat and human impact on it, the limitations of carrying capacity, the dynamics of ecosystems, and the effects that the immediate environment will have on the known resident populations are examined. In captivity, we use the foundation of the Five Freedoms, based on experience derived from other captive species, and we combine this with experience from rehabilitating manatees in Europe and the United States and, more recently, dugongs in the Indo-Pacific, to identify requirements and to help us to assess the unique needs of these species when held in facilities. We present considerations and approaches to (1) holistically assess captive facilities and to assess the well-being of the individuals held in the facility, (2) derive a guideline for standard captive assessment, (3) determine if adequate welfare needs for the animals are being met, and (4) help to provide guidance on whether an animal is suitable for release after rehabilitation.
|Title||Assessing welfare of individual sirenians in the wild and in captivity|
|Authors||Mark Flint, Robert K. Bonde|
|Publication Type||Book Chapter|
|Publication Subtype||Book Chapter|
|Record Source||USGS Publications Warehouse|
|USGS Organization||Wetland and Aquatic Research Center|