The latest research by University Centre Sparsholt (UCS) lecturer James Brereton challenges the current practice of feeding zoo-housed species a diet of chopped food to reduce aggression.

The research, published in the Journal of Zoo and Aquarium Research (JZAR) investigated whether the ring-tailed coati (a medium-sized South African mammal) changed its behaviour and sociality when fed foods that were chopped or whole.

The study, conducted at Beale Wildlife Park, revealed that a diet of whole food was shown to actually reduce aggression and increase food-manipulation behaviours which occurred less frequently when chopped food was provided.

According to lead author James Brereton, the research findings could be of value to other zoos and keepers of zoo-housed species. The animal behaviour and nutrition expert who lectures on Zoo Biology at UCS said: “The common practice for many zoo animals is to provide a diet of chopped food to reduce aggression. This study has shown that chopped foods don’t always reduce food aggression – in some cases, it’s the opposite. Keepers can save themselves time while making feeding time more enriching for some of their animals. Potentially, more species from a whole host of taxa could benefit from a whole food diet. Further research will help us identify which could receive the greatest benefits.”

Prior to joining the HE team at UCS James gained experience at ZSL London and Whipsnade zoos and Beale Wildlife Park.  Previous research has covered a range of zoo species including flamingos and invertebrates, coatis, parrots and pelicans. His research expertise is highly valued at UCS where he supervises third-year dissertation projects, a number of which have been presented at a number of conferences ABWAK and the BIAZA research conference.

UCS offers a range of Foundation, Degree and Masters in Animal Management and Zoo Biology course. For further information please click here