Bombal, E., Manteca, X., Tallo-Parra, O. 2023. A protocol to assess the welfare of Patagonian huemul (Hippocamelus bisulcus) in conservation centers. Animals 13(15), 2495.

Animal-welfare-assessment protocols are important for identifying welfare problems in conservation programs. This study aimed to develop a baseline welfare protocol for the assessment of the welfare of Patagonian huemuls (Hippocamelus bisulcus) in conservation centers. This protocol is based on the Welfare Quality® (WQ) framework for cattle and was developed with the consideration of the available research on the behaviors, ecology, conservation, and captive management of this species, as well as welfare-assessment protocols for other ungulate species. As a result, the protocol was specifically developed for Patagonian huemuls and included four principles, 12 criteria, and 23 animal- and resource-based indicators. The twelve criteria of the WQ protocol were reduced to nine, and three new criteria were added because they were both feasible and essential for welfare assessment in captive Patagonian huemuls. This protocol is mainly intended to identify welfare problems in endangered species in the context of conservation centers (reproduction, rescue, rehabilitation, or treatment centers). Thus, the aggregation of different measures to obtain a global score was not proposed. However, a scoring system that assigns a value on a 0–2 scale (0 = no welfare concern; 1 = welfare concern; 2 = urgent welfare concern) was proposed for each category. Although further research is still needed to fully validate the protocol, this is the first development of a protocol to assess Patagonian huemul welfare, and it can be used as a basis for the development of welfare-assessment protocols for other deer species in captivity.

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