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Unveiling new research on 150,000 carnivore births

Data from zoos explains species’ biology: New study from the University of Zurich

(May 30, 2018) Species360 is pleased to announce new research on carnivores from the University of Zurich that uses Species360 ZIMS data. The study, released on May 7 in the Journal of Biological Rhythms, explored the question of whether living in captivity would affect the mating season of carnivores. Until now it was unknown if factors such as having a sufficient food supply all year round or spending the winter in heated indoor spaces would affect the seasonality of reproduction.

Seasonality in carnivores is mostly the same in zoos and in nature

The lynx is one of the carnivores with the most pronounced seasonality characteristics (Image credit: Wildpark Zürich)

To investigate, researchers at the Clinic for Zoo Animals, Exotic Pets and Wildlife at the University of Zurich analyzed the seasonality of more than 100 species of carnivores. As it is rather difficult to observe births of animals in their natural habitat, they evaluated data from 150,000 births that took place in Species360 member zoos. They discovered that carnivores in captivity give birth at the same time of year as their counterparts in the wild. Only a few species – those whose natural habitat is in the tropics and whose seasonal reproduction is for reasons of food availability – start reproducing all year round when living in captivity, where food is always plentiful.

It is surprising how closely the zoo data correlates with that from animals in their natural habitat. For more than 80% of the species, the time period for births was the same in the zoo as in the wild.”

Dr. Marcus Clauss, Professor at the Vetsuisse Faculty, University of Zurich, and a member of the Species360 research committee

The power of data sharing

This is one of many scientific studies that have leveraged Species360 ZIMS data to discover new insights. ZIMS data holds great value for improving animal welfare and for conservation science, thanks to Species360 members sharing data. Data is also being used to create evidence for agencies like CITES and the IUCN in order to fight wildlife trafficking, protect endangered species, and lobby for improved legislation.

Red panda: Zoo Zürich / Peter Bolliger

About the University of Zurich

With its 26,000 enrolled students, the University of Zurich (UZH) is Switzerland’s largest university and one of the leading research universities in Europe. Founded in the year 1833, UZH was Europe’s first university to be established by a democratic political system; today, UZH is one of the foremost universities in the German-speaking world. As a member of the “League of European Research Universities” (LERU), the University of Zurich belongs to Europe’s most prestigious research institutions. Numerous distinctions highlight the University’s international renown in the fields of medicine, immunology, genetics, neuroscience and structural biology as well as in economics. To date, the Nobel Prize has been conferred on twelve UZH scholars.


About Species360

Successful animal care depends on applying the best actions possible for long-term animal health and survival. And that means tapping into the best knowledge available. As a nonprofit serving our community since 1974, Species360 continues to advance knowledge sharing for excellent animal care and conservation. Today, more than 1100 zoos, aquariums and other wildlife member organizations in 90+ countries use Species360 ZIMS software to help them achieve best practice animal management and conservation goals.

Prof. Dr. Marcus Clauss is a member of Species360 research committee and a collaborator of the Species360’s science team.


Information Contacts:

University of Zurich

Prof. Dr. Marcus Clauss, Vetsuisse Faculty

Clinic for Zoo Animals, Exotic Pets and Wildlife


Prof. Dr. Dalia Conde, Director of Science

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