Brox, B. W., Edwards, K., Buist, N. A. et al. 2021. Investigating food preference in zoo-housed meerkats. Zoo Biology 40(6), 517-526.
Understanding food preference among animals in human care can support improvements to welfare through training and day-to-day care (e.g., diet management). Little has been published about food preference in zoo-housed meerkats. Assessing meerkat food preference would be useful, not only for the welfare of that species, but also for developing approaches to assessing food preference in other group-housed, social species. The specific aim of this study was to quantify food preference within the meerkat mob at Wellington Zoo. We developed a simple, cost-effective method for characterizing the food preference hierarchy in meerkats by presenting pairs of foods to the mob as a group. We observed stable preference with the hierarchy for pups closely resembling that for adults. This study demonstrated that it is possible to assess food preference and identify a food preference hierarchy for a group of animals from a social species where it was neither practical nor appropriate to assess individuals' preferences separately.