One Health in Facilities Part II: Environmental Factors and Wellness in Marine Mammals
Understanding the positive and negative physical and mental parameters that influence health in wild or managed animals is essential to providing a supportive and suitable environment for those that are managed and a sustainable environment for those in the wild.
Pool Design and Activity
A limiting factor for proper habitat designs is the underutilization of knowledgeable participants in the veterinary and animal staffs in the consideration of suitable species based supportive standards. Baseline pool dimension characteristics should include the classic length, width, and depth characteristics but emphasis given to increased size for promotion of movement, flexibility for illness and therapy, cleaning, relocation, reproduction, acquisition, incompatibility and population increases with the target changed from minimal to suitable species standards.
Public and Species Comfort Distance
Every animal and species has its own comfort zone for what is a suitable amount of distance, noise or vibration levels, interaction with other species and social or reproductive pressure from their cohorts.2,3 Each animal, like people, will have a tolerance level that can be misinterpreted as doing well if not showing overt signs of disease or obvious behavioral abnormality. Consideration and guidelines of suitable public contact areas, including distance, percent of living space in close proximity, degree of underwater exposure, auditory disturbance and other factors should be developed and examined with a method of measuring change and effect.4
The use of oxidants for disinfection of marine mammal pools is currently under scrutiny. Disinfection should take place in the filtration area whenever possible with an adequate turnover rate and support structure to maintain water quality as near as natural as possible. The ultimate goal would be to eliminate their negative consequences for ocular health and the potential for selection of the heartiest oxidant resistant bacteria while allowing the expression of a normal microbiota to be present in the environment as well as in and on the animals.
Disruptions in air quality with cleaning techniques (blow packs, mechanical brooms, and pressure washers, combustion engines), construction resulting in open dirt or suspension of dust, road work, new facilities in close proximity, air conditioning systems, roof structures, overhanging trees, irrigation systems and porous shade cloth use are all potential sources of pulmonary disease for a number of species. Guidelines for construction should include an ironclad 24-hour no dust policy on site for any construction company, and roof structures near pools should have a safe cleaning policy in place.
Species Individual and Social Needs
As with the other areas of improvement the interaction of trainers and caretakers with animals is moving to a new level. This goes beyond the idea of enrichment in its present form where inanimate objects are emphasized. Just as a good teacher can help a student to succeed, reaching their potential and balancing their needs, the humans in contact with animals must know much more about their charges than is currently available without years of experience. Though not common in marine mammals metrics should be developed and adopted for evaluating wellness and welfare and more robust education of new personnel included.4
The authors would like to thank all of those we have worked with at the many facilities who have strived for improvement and added to the understanding of what it means to be healthy.
* Presenting author
1. Couquiaud L. Marine animal welfare dolphin facilities. Aquatic Mammals. 2005;31(3):279–385.
2. Stoskopf MK. The physiological effects of psychological stress. Zoo Biology. 1983;1:179–190.
3. Gibbons EF, Stoskopf MK. An interdisciplinary approach to animal medical problems. In: Driscoll JW, ed. Animal Care and Use in Behavioral Research: Regulations, Issues and Applications. Beltsville, MD: Animal Welfare Information Center, National Agricultural Library; 1989.
4. Clegg IL, Borger-Turner JL, Eskelinen HC. C-Well: the development of a welfare assessment index for captive bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus). Animal Welfare. 2015;24:267–282.