• Development of an Automated Pain Facial Expression Detection System for Sheep (Ovis Aries).

      McLennan, Krista M.; Mahmoud, Marwa; University of Chester; University of Cambridge (MDPI, 2019-04-25)
      Detecting signs of pain in sheep is a challenging problem, as they are a prey species and would usually try to hide any signs that they are unwell or injured. This means that treating ill or injured sheep and preventing any further spread of contagious diseases such as footrot can be slow. The recent development and publication of a Sheep Pain Facial Expression Scale (SPFES) has provided a tool to reliably detect pain in this species. However, due to the increase in intensification in farming and larger flock sizes being cared for by individual farmers, there is less time to spend monitoring sheep for changes in behaviour that may indicate illness or injury. Having an automated system that could detect changes in the facial expression of individual sheep would mean that farmers could receive information directly about particular individuals that need assessment. This would allow treatment to be provided in a timely and direct manner, reducing suffering. We have been developing the SPFES further in order for it to become an automated system. In this paper, we present our novel framework that integrates SPFES concepts with automatic facial expression analysis technologies.
    • Evaluation of the Feasibility, Reliability, and Repeatability of Welfare Indicators in Free-Roaming Horses: A Pilot Study.

      Harley, Jessica; Stack, J.D.; Braid, H; McLennan, Krista M.; Stanley, Christina; University of Chester; University of Liverpool
      Validated assessment protocols have been developed to quantify welfare states for intensively managed sport, pleasure, and working horses. There are few protocols for extensively managed or free-roaming populations. Here, we trialed welfare indicators to ascertain their feasibility, reliability, and repeatability using free-roaming Carneddau Mountain ponies as an example population. The project involved (1) the identification of animal and resource-based measures of welfare from both the literature and discussion with an expert group; (2) testing the feasibility and repeatability of a modified body condition score and mobility score on 34 free-roaming and conservation grazing Carneddau Mountain ponies; and (3) testing a prototype welfare assessment template comprising 12 animal-based and 6 resource-based welfare indicators, with a total of 20 questions, on 35 free-roaming Carneddau Mountain ponies to quantify inter-assessor reliability and repeatability. This pilot study revealed that many of the indicators were successfully repeatable and had good levels of inter-assessor reliability. Some of the indicators could not be verified for reliability due to low/absent occurrence. The results indicated that many animal and resource-based indicators commonly used in intensively managed equine settings could be measured in-range with minor modifications. This study is an initial step toward validating a much-needed tool for the welfare assessment of free-roaming and conservation grazing ponies.
    • Social Experience of Captive Livingstone’s Fruit Bats (Pteropus livingstonii)

      Stanley, Christina R; Smith, Tessa; Welch, Morgan J; Hosie, Charlotte; Wormell, Dominic; Price, Eluned; University of Chester; Jersey Zoo (MDPI, 2020-07-30)
      Social network analysis has been highlighted as a powerful tool to enhance the evidence-based management of captive-housed species through its ability to quantify the social experience of individuals. We apply this technique to explore the social structure and social roles of 50 Livingstone’s fruit bats (Pteropus livingstonii) housed at Jersey Zoo, Channel Islands, through the observation of associative, affiliative, and aggressive interactions over two data collection periods. We implement binomial mixture modelling and characteristic-based assortment quantification to describe the complexity and organisation of social networks, as well as a multiple regression quadratic assignment procedural (MRQAP) test to analyse the relationship between network types. We examine the effects of individual characteristics (i.e., sex, age, and dominance rank) on social role by fitting models to explain the magnitude of node metrics. Additionally, we utilize a quadratic assignment procedural (QAP) test to assess the temporal stability of social roles over two seasons. Our results indicate that P. livingstonii display a non-random network structure. Observed social networks are positively assorted by age, as well as dominance rank. The frequency of association between individuals correlates with a higher frequency of behavioural interactions, both affiliative and aggressive. Individual social roles remain consistent over ten months. We recommend that, to improve welfare and captive breeding success, relationships between individuals of similar ages and dominance levels should be allowed to persist in this group where possible, and separating individuals that interact frequently in an affiliative context should be avoided.