© Eszter Matrai
Our ex-situ research studies aim to build a strong bridge between scientific advancement, animal welfare, conservation and education.
By creating various-sized ice floes we aim to provide opportunities for the seals to practice their natural balancing and haul-out skills. The ice floes serve as novel cognitive enrichment, providing sensory and mental stimulation. Moreover, they are also valuable as educational tools. As the ice melts away, it becomes gradually more difficult for the seals to haul-out on it. Our experimental sessions, while on a small scale, demonstrate the effect of climate change and global warming and the consequent impact of habitat loss.
Arapaimas are one of the biggest freshwater fish, they can grow up to 4m in length. All three species of the genus are endemic to the Amazon River. Despite their considerable size, there is very little information about these species. The conservation status of Arapaima sp. Is unknown due to data deficiency.
This study aims to present some of the first findings on Arapaima behavioural repertoire and activity budget, and consequently contribute to the protection of the species. This pilot study provides valuable baseline data for further investigations demonstrating the value of a laser pointer as environmental enrichment for A. gigas under human care.
Cooperative enrichment study
While cooperation in dolphin societies is often observed and its importance in survival is clear, the actions themselves are not fully understood. This study aims to investigate the underlying mechanism of dolphin cooperation, focusing on partner choice, observational learning, problem-solving and individual differences.
The cooperative enrichment provides opportunities for the dolphins to practice their innate ability of problem-solving and coordination without any specific training.
Moreover, dolphins were observed not only cooperating in pairs, but the multi-partner enrichment devices also allowed trios and quartets to work together.
Video editing by Luna Lys
Studying the ability of shape recognition helps scientists to understand how dolphins gain information about their surroundings, how they distinguish between different objects and how they remember this information over time. During the matching-to-sample trials, the dolphin first inspects a sample object and then selects the same shape from two or more alternative choices. Dolphins can match successfully not only familiar but also new objects that they have never seen before.
Moreover, dolphins are not only able to match visually but also across different senses. They are able to recognise a hidden object using echolocation and subsequently select the same object visually.
Iguana acupuncture study
Green iguanas (Iguana iguana) live in the forest of Central and South America. Our geriatric female green iguana, Harriet, has started receiving acupuncture treatment to improve her overall health by our veterinarian, Dr. Sarah Churgin. The effect of the treatment is evaluated using a specialised behavioural observation technique by our research team.
Giant panda study
Behavioural observation and activity monitoring are key components of contemporary animal management, contributing to both science and welfare. Behavioural studies of giant pandas have provided valuable information to the development of the currently used breeding and care programs.
This study investigated the activity pattern of the world's currently oldest male giant panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca), An An, housed at Ocean Park Hong Kong, and focused on the seasonal and temperature-related changes in An An’s behaviour.
Arctic fox study
Arctic foxes (Vulpes lagopus) are indigenous to the Northern Hemisphere's Arctic regions and widespread in the Arctic tundra biome. They are one of the smallest members of the canine family and are known for their characteristic white fur coats and bushy tail.
The research team focuses on activity monitoring and the individual differences between the five foxes living in the polar exhibit of Ocean Park Hong Kong.
Red panda study
The red panda (Ailurus fulgens) is an endangered species living in the bamboo forests throughout the Himalayas, including China, Nepal and India. They are known for their reddish-brown fur, black belly and legs, white muzzle and ringed tail. Our geriatric female red panda, Rou Rou, has started receiving acupuncture and drug treatment to improve her overall health by our veterinarian. The research team evaluated the effect of the treatment using a behavioural observation technique and investigated the individual difference between Rou Rou and another animal.