Animal Welfare Research

What is Animal Welfare?

Animal welfare refers to the physical and psychological well-being of an animal and is measured on a continuum from poor to thriving.

Animal Welfare Research Vision

The Chicago Zoological Society Animal Welfare Research Program will be recognized around the world as leaders in the field for developing innovative multi-faceted tools to evaluate animal welfare, application of findings into practice, training future leaders, collaboration and consultation for other zoos, aquariums, non-profits and academic institutions, and disseminating our results through scientific and popular media.

Priority Areas

Holistic Monitoring

Through the creation of a large database of information including indicators of welfare (behavior, hormones, reproductive success), animal management techniques (training, enrichment, nutrition), and individual and natural history information, we can ask specific questions about the welfare of animals to identify best practices...learn more


WelfareTrak© is a tool for monitoring and improving the welfare of animals. Current efforts include validating the effectiveness of WelfareTrak© in improving the welfare of individual animals and the measures used to monitor those animals...learn more

Social Factors

We will continue to examine the impact of social factors on the welfare of animals and determine ways to mitigate effects if negative impacts are detected.

Environmental Enrichment

Environmental enrichment is the process of providing behavioral opportunities to animals. We will continue to research the impacts of enrichment on animal welfare to ensure we are meeting the behavioral needs of each species.

Bottlenose Dolphins

The Chicago Zoological Society has a long tradition of conducting research on bottlenose dolphins. We will continue this tradition to help ensure that each individual dolphin within the collection is thriving.

Animal Ambassadors

Working with many different institutions we will explore the impact of using animals in various types of programs to ensure these programs are benefiting the animals as well as zoo visitors.

In Situ Conservation

An area of focus will include applying an animal welfare framework to wild populations to better understand how human disturbance impacts wildlife.  With the link between reproductive success and animal welfare, having a better understanding can help with the conservation of species.

Future Leaders

We are creating a national and international training program on animal welfare and evidence-based management as well as providing professional training to develop local, national, and international scientists.   We will continue to hold scientific conferences to continue as a leader in the field of animal welfare.

Sustaining Program

By engaging the public in innovative ways and searching for new funding opportunities, we are working to create a self-sustaining research program focused on animal welfare. Through endocrinology service work, individual and corporate donations, and new grant opportunities we hope to continue to grow and develop the program.

Engaging Visitors and Staff

We believe that everyone can become a conservation leader.  We are working to develop innovative techniques to engage volunteers, staff and visitors in our research and conservation efforts.  By creating these experiences, we hope to demonstrate the relevancy of our research efforts within and beyond the Chicago Zoological Society –Brookfield Zoo.