The Chicago Zoological Society (CZS) which manages the Brookfield Zoo is committed to the continuous improvement in the welfare of the animals under our professional care. This involves conducting research to identify tools and/or information that can be applied to the care of the animals. CZS has a history of being a pioneer in the field of Animal Welfare. In 2008, we created the Center for the Science of Animal Care and Welfare. The Center promotes a unique, holistic, science-based approach to integrating professionals from a variety of disciplines including behavioral research, endocrinology, population biology, and veterinary science, with the goal of assessing and optimizing welfare from an animal-centric perspective. CZS just recently completed the Cetacean Welfare Study which highlights an excellent example of this process.

The Cetacean Welfare Study was the largest-ever groundbreaking, multi-institutional study of how physical habitat, environmental enrichment, and animal training impact the welfare of cetaceans in zoos and aquariums. From start to finish, the study took researchers seven years including method development, data collection, and presenting the results in both publications and presentations. The collection of nine manuscripts resulting from this work highlight tools and findings that can be utilized for the continuous improvement of the care and welfare of cetaceans in professional care. From Chicago to Singapore, data were collected across 46 cetacean habitats at 43 accredited facilities in seven countries. Over the course of the data collection phase of the study, which took place in 2018 and 2019, scientists gathered information regarding 216 common and Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins, 13 beluga whales, and eight Pacific white-sided dolphins. Future blogs will highlight many of the findings, or you can access all of the articles for free here (

Dr. Lance Miller
Vice President of Conservation Science and Animal Welfare Research
Published December 10, 2021