2.2 Animal Behaviour

Animals kept in EAZA collections should be encouraged to perform as much of their natural behavioural repertoire as possible. Whenever possible, unnatural and/or abnormal behaviours that are detrimental to the welfare or dignity of the animals should be prevented or actively discouraged. Important elements in behavioural management are enclosure design, environmental and behavioural enrichment, and feeding regimes.

  • Behaviour Basics: zookeepers know about the basics of behaviour, stimuli of behaviour and the response to it. Zookeepers can distinguish between classical and critical anthropomorphism and are able to develop objective observations.
  • Innate and Learned Behaviour: zookeepers know about innate behaviour, such as reflexes and instinctive behaviour patterns (social, territorial behaviour, communication) and cyclic behaviour such as hibernation and migration. Zookeeper know about the animal’s imprinting phase, ability to learn through trial and error, conditioning and insight.
  • Observing and Data Sampling: zookeepers can observe the animal’s behaviour objectively, using data sampling (ad-libitum, all occurrences, scan data, focal animal data sampling, one/zero data sampling).
  • Unnatural and Abnormal Behaviour: zookeepers can understand what abnormal behaviour is and can identify and understand natural, normal, unnatural and abnormal behaviours.
  • Behavioural Enrichment: zookeepers know about the benefits of behaviour enrichment and can use this in favour of the animal’s welfare.
Zookeepers working at Competent level can: Zookeepers working at Proficient level can: Zookeepers working at Expert level can:
2.2.1 Behaviour Basics Describe the most important stimuli and responses of the animal, and avoid anthropomorphism Describe stimuli and behavioural responses and repertoire (excluding anthropomorphism) to guests and colleagues Interpret behaviour and discuss how the enclosure design can impact on behaviour
2.2.2 Innate and Learned Behaviour Distinguish whether behaviour is innate or learned to the species Interpret the (innate or learned) behaviour and discuss how this relates to the animal’s needs and report to the supervisor Evaluate the observed behaviour and devise an appropriate husbandry and/or training programme to extend behaviour and welfare
2.2.3 Observing and Data Sampling Identify individual animals in a group and observe the animal’s behaviour
Report observations to their supervisor or other appropriate staff
Interpret the observed behaviour and report this interpretation to the supervisor Modify the environment to the needs of the animal and monitor the effectiveness of the modifications
Anticipate in response to the observed behaviour
2.2.4 Unnatural and Abnormal Behaviour Classify abnormal behaviour of the animal and report this to a supervisor in their team Interpret abnormal behaviour and respond to it in consultation of a supervisor Analyse abnormal behaviour and plan structural adjustments to the environment and daily care, to reform the behaviour
Monitor the effectiveness of these adjustments
2.2.5 Behavioural Enrichment Prepare and produce enrichment items from an approved list for nominated species/enclosure Develop and implement appropriate enrichment items in accordance with enclosure design and species-specific needs Create a species- and enclosure-specific enrichment plan
Monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of the designed enrichment elements and plans, and make adjustments as needed


  • L.A. Urry et. al., Campbell Biology, 11th edition, 2016
  • EAZA Standards for the Accommodation and Care of Animals in Zoos and Aquaria – EAZA
  • EU Zoos Directive Good Practices Document (chapter 2.4) – European Commission
  • Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour – ASAB
  • Animal Behaviour & Ethology group – Facebook group
  • Student Environmental Enrichment Course – Facebook page
  • IAATE Monthly Enrichment Challenge – Facebook page
  • Enrichment Challenges Archives – Facebook group
  • Zoo Enrichment – Facebook page

Paths to fulfilment

  • Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour, education and courses – ASAB
  • EAZA Animal Training course: Understanding and Managing Animal Behaviour – EAZA

Last updated: 14/12/2017