Enclosure use as a measure of behavioral welfare in zoo-housed African wild dogs (Lycaon pictus).
African wild dogs Lycaon pictus are a popularly exhibited zoo animal, frequently housed in groups to represent their natural packs in the wild. While such group housing is common, the effects of changes to that group are seldom directly investigated. This study examined the enclosure use of three African wild dog siblings located at the Woodland Park Zoo. The wild dogs were observed during a period of several weeks, during which one of the dogs was periodically removed from the group. Groupings of the wild dogs were examined during three conditions: (1) ALL 3, when all three dogs were on-exhibit, (2) MIXED, when one of the dogs was held off-exhibit, and (3) ALL 2, when only two animals remained in the enclosure and on-exhibit. Removal of one of the dogs from the on-exhibit portion of the enclosure (MIXED and ALL 2 conditions) significantly modified overall area usage and variability in enclosure use (as measured via Entropy, a single measure of area use variability) for the two remaining on-exhibit wild dogs. The results suggest that overall enclosure use, with attention to variability in enclosure areas used, can function as a relevant behavioural welfare measure for group-housed zoo animals, particularly when direct measures of behaviours are inconclusive.