Animal Husbandry and Welfare

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Animal Husbandry and Welfare

AZA values superior animal husbandry practices and recognizes that they are directly related to the advanced level of animal welfare maintained within its Accredited Zoos and Aquariums, Certified Related Facilities, and Sustainability Partners. The AZA Animal Welfare Committee defines Animal Welfare as an animal’s collective physical, mental, and emotional states over a period of time, and is measurable on a continuum from good to poor.

An animal typically experiences good welfare when healthy, comfortable, well-nourished, safe, able to develop and express species-typical relationships, behaviors, and cognitive abilities, and not suffering from unpleasant states such as pain, fear, or distress. Because physical, mental, and emotional states may be dependent on one another and can vary from day to day, it is important to consider these states in combination with one another over time to provide an assessment of an animal’s overall welfare status.

To maintain the high quality of these practices, AZA enforces numerous Accreditation Standards, manages several Committees and Scientific Advisory Groups, supports specialized Centers, and provides various reference materials which specialize in animal husbandry and welfare within and between its accredited institutions. Information about several husbandry components including animal behavior, enrichment, nutrition, and reproduction are exemplified to demonstrate their importance to animal welfare.

Animal Care Manuals

Animal Care Manuals are taxon-specific dynamic documents that provide a compilation of animal care and management knowledge that is based on the current science, practice, and technology of animal management to advance excellence in animal care and welfare. The developmental processes needed to compose and publish an AZA Animal Care Manual are provided. Relevant information from existing Husbandry Manuals is being transferred into the AZA Animal Care Manual format. Read more about Animal Care Manuals.


In situ and ex situ studies of animal behavior can provide a plethora of valuable information about species that should be used to ensure the welfare of both populations. Understanding species specific instinctual behaviors and the ways in which these animals learn allows animal care managers to meet the animal’s husbandry, social, and behavioral needs while providing a unique opportunity to gain an understanding of it’s sensory, cognitive, and physiologic abilities which can be applied to conservation strategies. The AZA Behavior Advisory Group plays a key role in advising AZA Animal Programs and communicating relevant information between scientists, Program Leaders, and AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums. Read more about Behavior.


Behavioral enrichment is a dynamic process that enhances an animal’s environment within the context of its’ behavioral biology and natural history. Social, cognitive, physical, and sensory enrichment techniques are introduced on a varied schedule in a variety of contexts to increase the animal’s behavioral choices, elicit species-specific behaviors, and enhance animal welfare. Read more about Enrichment.


Nutrition is an important factor in an animal’s immune function and is an integral component of outstanding animal husbandry practices incorporated in AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums. AZA’s Nutrition and Endocrinology Advisory Groups communicate species-specific dietary needs to promote excellent animal health and prevent disease. Reference materials, including the AZA Feeding Program Guidelines, have been developed to augment animal nutrition within AZA-accredited institutions.  Read more about Nutrition.


Understanding species-specific reproductive physiology is crucial to providing the highest standards of animal care, health, and welfare; ensuring high population genetic and demographic diversity and contributing to the conservation of threatened and endangered species. The AZA Wildlife Contraception and Population Management Centers as well as the Reproduction and Endocrinology Scientific Advisory Groups develop, implement, and share new technologies that promote progressive conservation initiatives and strategies. Read more about Reproduction.