2nd & 3rd of November 2017

Hosted by
Allwetter Zoo Münster in collaboration with Chapman Zoo Consultancy

One of the results of modern animal care programs is that large numbers of animals live to be quite old, leading to a growing demographic of captive geriatric animals. In response, many holistic animal care programs have begun practicing a “cradle to grave” philosophy, striving to ensure optimal and predominantly positive animal welfare at every life stage. Yet much is still unknown about best practices for assessing and ensuring optimal welfare throughout the final stages of life.

Caretakers are discovering that aged animals are unique in their physical and emotional needs and preferences. Aged animals may be behaviourally more subdued than younger ones, use their space in different ways, and may also experience events differently than they used to. Elderly animals often play specific and important roles within their social groups, and the death of an animal can be a significant event, eliciting reactions such as mourning as “funereal” behaviours. Caretakers can easily overlook or misinterpret animals’ presentations of their welfare states, particularly in realms where empirical research is lacking. Animal caretakers who understand the needs and wants of aged animals can help to provide the most appropriate care and make compassionate and well-timed end-of-life decisions.

For companion as well as wild animals, there is a growing attention to senior care and end-of-life support. This workshop will integrate work from several fields, including ethology, veterinary hospice and palliative care, animal ethics, environmental enrichment, animal training, nutrition and exhibit/indoor housing. The workshop aims to generate discussions that expand our understanding of aged animal care and welfare and provide practical applications for implementing geriatric care programs. We will also consider the roles of elderly animals in their social groups and how their loss might affect both the animals and people in their lives.

The seminar will be aimed at professional animal care staff from zoos, aquariums and sanctuaries, as well as animal welfare researchers and veterinarians looking to support the graceful ageing of the animals in their care.



Stacks Image 12
Dr. Andrew Kitchener is the Principal Curator of Vertebrates at National Museums Scotland, where he has been collecting many vertebrate specimens from zoos over the last 25 years principally for research. He has conducted a variety of research projects aimed at looking at the effects of captivity on wild vertebrates, inclduing flight capability of fruit bats, gum feeding and skeletal development in callitrichid monkeys, and diet and skull morphology in big cats. Andrew is the Chairman of the People’s Trust for Endangered Species, and is currently a member of the Animal Welfare Committee of the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, Council and the Zoos Advisory Committee of the Zoolgical Society of London, the EAZA Biobanking Working Group, and the IUCN Cat Specialist Group.
Stacks Image 9
Dr. Simone Schehka studied Biology at the FU Berlin and graduated in 2009 with a first-class degree in Ethology at the TiHo Hannover. Her PhD thesis was embedded into a DFG project which focused on the acoustical communication of emotions in different mammals. Following the academic career, Simone was employed as zoological assistant at Erlebniszoo Hannover. Since 2011 she worked as curator of mammals at the Allwetterzoo Münster. Her main role besides personnel management is ensuring optimum husbandry, training, and management of a large variety of species including primates, hoofstock, grey seals and bears. Simone recently became co-chair of the Sumatra and Borneo Orang-Utan EEP
Stacks Image 38
Dr. Lynette Hart is Professor of Human-Animal Interactions and Animal Behavior at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. With colleagues at the veterinary school, she spearheaded in the 1980s the formation of the first pet loss support group sponsored by a local veterinary association, and developed the first pet loss support hotline. She is one of the founders of the International Society of Anthrozoology and is a fellow of this society. In 2017 she was the recipient of the Distinguished Anthrozoologist award.
Stacks Image 35
Dr. Sarah Chapman BVM&S MSc DZooMed (Mammalian) MRCVS, qualified as a vet in June 2000 from the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Medicine and Surgery. After qualification, she worked in mixed animal practice in East Yorkshire where she also worked with exotics and wildlife. In September 2004 she began the Masters course in Wild Animal Health and completed her dissertation on the Mortality of Captive Gorillas. She then worked in South East England, where she gained her Certificate in Zoological Medicine and was part of the veterinary team at Woburn Safari Park. Following this post, she worked at Paignton Zoo for three years as Associate Veterinarian. She was Head of Veterinary Services for Twycross Zoo for five years working with a large variety of large and small exotic animals and was an Honorary Assistant Professor of the University of Nottingham Veterinary School of Veterinary Medicine and Science. Sarah is the leader of the health sub-group of the UK Elephant Welfare Group; veterinary advisor for the UK Elephant Focus Group and also the Bongo Taxon Advisory Group. Her research interests include Great Ape heart disease, elephant herpes virus and animal welfare in captivity. Sarah gained her RCVS diploma in Zoo Medicine (Mammalian) in 2014. She has also spent time teaching in China and Romania and in the Cameroon doing veterinary work with rescued primates.
Stacks Image 23
Dr. Heather Bacon BSc (Hons), BVSc, CertZooMed MRCVS is a Veterinary Surgeon at the University of Edinburgh’s Jeanne Marchig International Centre for Animal Welfare Education (JMICAWE), based within the University of Edinburgh’s Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies. She graduated from the University of Liverpool with a first class degree in Conservation Medicine in 2003, and from the University of Bristol with a degree in Veterinary Medicine in 2005. She is an RCVS Advanced practitioner in zoological medicine. Her work is focused primarily overseas to improve veterinary skills and the welfare of animals around the world by working with zoo and veterinary organisations. Heather also lectures in undergraduate and postgraduate wild animal welfare. She is a member of the BVA Ethics and Welfare Committee and a BVZS council member. She sits on the welfare committee of the ZSL and is a member of EAZA Animal Welfare working group. Previously, Heather lived and worked in China as the Veterinary Director at the Animals Asia Foundation, an NGO working to end the trade in bear bile across Asia.
Stacks Image 15
Nicola Field is the Bear & Vet Team Director at Animals Asia Foundation’s China Bear Rescue Centre, where she has worked for ten years. She heads up the vet and bear-keeping staff taking care of the bears, dogs, cats and macaques on site and currently the bears at a former farm in Nanning, Guangxi. Her main role is ensuring optimum care of all the animals on site with the support of a fantastic team, as well as promoting the work of the organisation and bear care. Nicola is also a key member of the China Bear Team focused on the strategic planning process of ending bear bile farming in China. Nicola recently became co-chair of the IUCN Captive Bear Specialist Group and is also a member of the IUCN Asiatic Black Bear Specialist Group. She has an MSc in Wildlife Biology & Conservation, as well as Animal Management qualifications. Nicola worked for nearly 10 years as a keeper in the UK, taking care of a variety of species, including North American black bears. She spent two years in education in the UK working as an animal-care assessor. She has also spent time working in Uganda and Vietnam as a researcher on conservation projects and also at the Colobus Trust in Kenya.
Stacks Image 20
Stefanie Diefert started her career as animal keeper in 1992 at Naturzoo Rheine, with special emphasis on monkeys, harbour seals and Humboldt penguins. Also, at Naturzoo Rheine, she got her first experience of training seals. In 2001, Stefanie was offered a position at Allwetterzoo Münster, as being part of the 'bear section', which includes different species of bears, jackass penguins and grey seals. Since 2002, due to her previous experience, Stefanie has been supervising the training of the seals as head trainer.
Stacks Image 29
Friederike Schmitz graduated as a Diplom-biologist from the University of Münster in 2005 with a major in Zoology/Ethology. Through her studies, she had a strong interest in Animal cognition and Animal behaviour. For more than eleven years, Friederike has been training a variety of species, like bottlenose dolphins, California sea lions and harbour seals. In addition, she has been involved in visitors´ education. In 2013, she got a position as zookeeper at Allwetterzoo Münster. Currently, working as part of the 'bear section', she trains grey seals and performs daily presentation for visitors.
Stacks Image 32
Debra Marrin is the Director of Training and Behavioral Husbandry at the San Francisco Zoo. She has over 40 years of professional animal training and management experience with a large variety of species including large and small felines, cetaceans, pinnipeds, primates, and more. She has lead teams in the design and implementation of multiple husbandry training programs; training both animals and staff. Debra has worked directly with veterinary staffs setting goals and participating in procedures. She has trained husbandry behaviors that were novel in the industry thinking outside the box customizing plans for each animal’s needs. Her experience includes animals at all life stages including geriatrics.
Stacks Image 26
Sabrina Brando is a psychologist with a MSc in Animal Studies, interested in the human-animal relationship. She has in interest in animal welfare, particularly from the 24/7 across lifespan approach, how various systems and working methods affect animals short-and long-term. She is the owner of AnimalConcepts and works world wide in the field of animal welfare and animal advocacy, a short bio can be found by clicking here. Since August 2017 Sabrina is the Animal Welfare Coordinator at the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums.


Dr. Andrews Kitchener

The longevity legacy: The prevalence of skeletal and dental pathologies in old zoo mammals.

Over the last 25 years National Museums Scotland has been collecting zoo animal specimens for research. During specimen preparation, it was noticed that many older vertebrate animals, which often exceeded longevities in the wild, have extensive skeletal and dental pathologies. In this paper I will present a range of typical skeletal and dental pathologies seen in these vertebrates and update our data on their prevalence with age, examine how environmental enrichment may be important in preventing some, and offer discussion as to how these can be assessed in living animals and how knowledge of these pathologies impact welfare and captive breeding programmes. I will also outline other potential areas for future collaborative research with captive holders of endangered vertebrate species.

Professor Dr. Lynette Hart

Animal caregiving in zoos: Special challenges

Currently, within the veterinary profession the significance and stress of pet loss for pet owners, as well as for their veterinarians, is widely acknowledged and understood. Yet, in the zoo environment, despite similar long-term special relationships between zookeepers and animals, it seems that the significance of the emotional stress for a zookeeper when the life of an animal they have been caring for is ending, is not currently appreciated and addressed. Since the stress of animal death severely impacts those in the veterinary profession, creative efforts have expanded that enhance self-care and mental health. The efforts include developing supportive and relaxing work environments, and implementing healthful activities – activities that are essential to maintaining a balanced healthy life. In the context of supporting the staff in zoological settings, an array of strategies that people may find useful will be presented.

Dr. Simone Schehka

Mourning behaviour in animals-what do you think? Report on the behavioral response of a female Malayan sun bear to the death of her partner

Charles Darwin was one of the first scientists who wrote about the existence and nature of emotions in animals. However, during most of the 20th century and still today, scientists and philosophers are far more cautious with this topic. Animal behaviourists, such as Stamp Dawkins, do not deny the existence of animal consciousness, but state that theories about animal emotions cannot be tested in the real world. Nevertheless, modern scientists ask questions about the “inner lives” more than ever, and their toolkit for probing such questions is growing more sophisticated at the same time. Certainly, humans cannot know for certain what an animal is feeling. However, we are able to observe behavioural and physiological changes, which may enable us to infer emotions. On the basis of a short case report on Malayan sun bears at the Allwetterzoo Münster, I aim to discuss two important points which zoo keepers and managers are confronted with when caring for wild elderly animals in captivity: 1. I will illustrate the behavioural response of a female Malayan sun bear to the death of her familiar male partner to discuss animal emotions; and 2. I will show the process of defining the point in time to elect euthanasia in the elderly male. The pair of Malayan sun bears lived together harmonically for more than 10 years at the Allwetterzoo Münster. In May this year, the 30 year-old male had to be euthanised due to age related medical conditions. By presenting short video sequences of different behaviours of the female bear prior to the health decline of the male, minutes after the males´ death as well later on after the loss of her mate, I aim to discuss the importance of recognising animal behavioural deviations and their implications for imposing emotions. At the same time will I elucidate the important process of euthanasia decision, both with the aim to improve animal husbandry and welfare.

Sarah Chapman DVM

Approach to optimal welfare of the elderly wild animals

This presentation will discuss a holistic approach to welfare assessment with detailed approaches to health assessment both from a ‘hands off’ and ‘hands on’ perspective. So much information can be gained from the animals under our care using behavioural monitoring tools and positive reinforcement training techniques before we embark on physical examinations. Physical examination is a vital part of assessing the health of our animals but must be approached with care and with good planning; valuable information can be gathered efficiently to reduce impact on the individual and social grouping. Results of these health assessments can be fed into an overall welfare assessment involving a team approach with would include veterinarians, managers and animal caregivers

Euthanasia: decision making and procedure

Euthanasia can be a contentious subject in many countries and between individuals. This presentation outlines the decision making process that can take place and the benefit of creating criteria for the euthanasia of elderly zoo animals. The planning of the euthanasia procedure will be discussed touching on the different elements that can be involved in dealing with a zoo animal. Case examples will be included.

Heather Bacon DVM

Clinical animal behaviour and ageing zoo animals

Zoo animal welfare has become an increasingly recognised issue over recent years (Melfi 2009). One of the most common and often misunderstood welfare and behavioural issues in zoo species is the management of abnormal repetitive behaviours (ARBs). ARBs may include compulsive and self-injurious behaviour in addition to stereotypical behaviours, and these behaviours are not simply ‘behaviour problems’ but often indicate a level of psychopathology. ARBs may derive from an animal’s inability to cope with its experiences, dysfunction of the central nervous system or behavioural frustration (Mason 2006). ARBs are a significant concern both within the exotic pet and zoological communities, and may indicate welfare problems for an animal, in addition to being a concern for initiatives such as captive breeding programmes or reintroduction the wild programmes. This presentation will outline the mechanisms that lead to the development of ARBs and some of the treatment approaches that may be used to address these complex issues. Fundamentally it is important that veterinary professionals engage with psychological health issues in a similar way to physical health issues in order to safeguard the health and welfare of our animal patients

Holistic strategies for pain management

Pain is a complex multi-dimensional experience involving sensory and affective (emotional) components. In other words, ‘pain is not just about how it feels, but how it makes you feel’, and it is those unpleasant feelings that cause the suffering we associate with pain. A painful experience is a product of the noxious stimulation of tissues (peripheral mechanisms) and the unconscious nociceptive processing by the spinal cord and brain (central mechanisms). Geriatric zoo animals may receive supportive veterinary treatment for a wide variety of painful conditions relating to advanced age. These conditions may include (but are not limited to) osteoarthritis, dental disease, and ocular disease. These chronic and progressive disease syndromes will often be managed by medical treatments, specific husbandry changes and close monitoring, to ensure that the individual animal’s quality of life remains good (Lambeth and others 2013). However pain management in geriatric zoo animals is limited by our ability to accurately recognise pain states in a variety of species (Föllmi and others 2007), our inherent bias towards charismatic taxa and the normalisation of behavioural changes associated with chronic pain. This presentation will outline current good practice in the management of both acute and chronic pain in animals, discuss the different approaches to treating different types of pain, and explore the variety of pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical approaches that may be used in a holistic pain management strategy.

Nicola Field MSc.

Geriatric management of captive bears: Experience of bears rescued from bile farms in China

Across Asia, up to 20,000 bears are cruelly farmed for their bile despite the herbal and synthetic alternatives that exist. Animals Asia is devoted to end the practice of bear bile farming and we have rescued 600 bears in China and Vietnam since 1994. Bears rescued are mainly Asiatic black bears (Ursus thibetanus) but we have rescued a number of brown bears (Ursus arctos) and sun bears (Ursus malayanus) too. They vary in age from 2 month old cubs to bears who have been kept on farms for up to 30 years. Bears on bile farms are generally kept in very small cages, in a non stimulating environment where they endure tremendous physical and psychological suffering. When they arrive at our sanctuaries they have gone through a lot of trauma and it takes time for them to adjust to a new life. Among the groups of bears we manage, a large number are physically challenged – blind, or missing limbs, claws and teeth. Increasingly we are managing an aging population of compromised bears. These geriatric bears have a variety of disorders including mobility, hypertension, ocular and dental disease. Consequently we need to address and consider increased veterinary management and more intensive husbandry and management practices. This talk discusses the issues we have encountered in our sanctuary managing and caring for geriatric bears, the practices we have adopted to meet the bears’ needs as well as how as a team of care givers we manage their welfare, provide them with a good death and manage the process of grief.

Stefanie Klahn & Friederike Schmitz

The challenge of age! Caring for elderly grey seals at Allwetterzoo Münster

For more than 40 years, there have been grey seals (Halichoerus grypus) at Allwetterzoo Münster. Over the last couple of years, some things have changed and as time passed by, the seals have grown old together. Now, the two oldest animals went blind, because their lens became cloudy. They slowed down in their movements, they cannot hear well and they appear to be confused from time to time. All signs of the ongoing ageing process. Of course, ageing is part of life, it is a natural process, but we, as animal keepers, cannot nor must not ignore the signals! Our elderly animals have reached a new stage of life with special needs. For us caregivers, training has always been such an essential tool to build a positive and trusting relationship with our seals. But training is based on a two-way In this talk we would like to present our experiences while working with our ageing grey seals. The process was not always easy and we had to accept limitations, but with patience, empathy and some modification, our elderly animals adjusted well. In the end, we have found a way to maintain the best animal care for our seniors, to keep up stimulating them and enriching their life within the group.

Debbie Marrin, Dr. Bethany Krebs and Dr.Jason Watters

An approach to assessing and supporting the behavioural wellness of ageing zoo animals

A cradle-to-grave approach for managing animal welfare requires care adjustments for varied life stages. It is now very common for zoo animals to reach extended ages. Aged animals may experience frequent physical and behavioural changes and it is unclear what to expect with these changes. As a result, assessing the well-being of these animals should occur frequently. San Francisco Zoological Society¹s Wellness Team has developed a simple behaviour-based method that can be used to assess the well-being of ageing animals. The technique is inexpensive and based on both inputs that support and outputs that indicate behavioural wellness. It considers both caretaker effort and animals’ perspective of their well-being. Our approach can be used to monitor quality of life of animals as well as the efficacy of modifications to housing, husbandry and medication aimed at supporting quality of life.

Training adjustments for age-related changes in aged animals

Animals who have participated reliably for years in voluntary husbandry and medical behaviours may suddenly refuse to respond to cues that previously elicited their participation in some behaviours. In many cases the cause is not a lack of training skills on the part of the trainers, but a physical or mental change in the animal. In order to set our animals and staff up to succeed we need to carefully evaluate the causes of an animals’ apparent refusal to participate in long established behaviours. If we can determine the cause of the change we can then adjust the environment and expectations to achieve our training goals. This presentation will review two cases in which we successfully evaluated and solved training issues that arose with ageing animals at the San Francisco Zoo.


This seminar will be held in English.


Registration includes lectures, workshops, coffee breaks, seminar materials, and certificate of attendance.

Regular registration fee Euro 175 + 19% VAT
Student registration fee Euro 100 + 19% VAT



Allwetter Zoo Münster
Sentruper Straße 315
48161 Münster

Closest larger airports: Duesseldorf, Koeln-Bonn and Dortmund.

Participants will receive a confirmation upon reception of the registration form. You are then officially registered. Cancellations received at least 3 month prior to the first day of the conference or workshop will be honoured and fees if already paid refunded even if invoice is not yet send and if payment is still outstanding less a processing fee. Cancellations made after this date up to 2 months before the start will be refunded at 50%, and cancellations made less then 1 month before the seminar are not refunded (even if invoice is not yet send and if payment is still outstanding). In fairness to all attendees confirmed participants who do not attend their scheduled workshop or conference are liable for the entire fee unless other arrangements have been made with AnimalConcepts prior to the start of the event. AnimalConcepts is a registered company under Dutch law and by accepting the cancellation policy at registration you agree and are bound to these laws regardless of your geographically area. All payments have to be received prior to the start of the seminar if this is not possible then only a cash payment on the day will allow access to the event.