© 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 4 m in length. All three species of the genus is 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.
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 underling mechanism of dolphin cooperation, focusing on partner choice, observational learning, problem-solving and individual differences.
The cooperative enrichment provide 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, the multi-partner enrichment devices also allowed trios and quartets to work together.
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 these informations over time. During the matching-to-sample trials, the dolphin first inspects a sample object 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 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 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 the smallest member of the canine family and known for their characteristic white fur coat and bushy tail.
The research team focuses on the activity monitoring and the individual differences of the five foxes living in the polar exhibit of Ocean Park Hong Kong.