A study of wild animal suffering using data from wild animal rescue centers in Greece

14 Dec 2020

In order to more effectively reduce the harms animals suffer in the wild, it is crucial to increase our knowledge about what the typical harms are in different circumstances. One way is by looking at data gathered by organizations working with injured, orphaned, or sick animals.

This is the rationale for our latest study. It examines how existing data about wild animals admitted to rescue centers and animal sanctuaries in Greece provides insight into natural harms affecting wild animals. It looks at the types of animals admitted, reasons for admission, and possible effects of seasonality, age, and sex. It also examines the limitations to the accuracy of reporting and analysis due to the choice of categories, reporting methods, diagnostic tools, and anthropocentric bias.

We found that the types of animals admitted in these centers, primarily birds and mammals, and the reported reasons for admission are unrepresentative of the ratios found in the wild. The paper examines some reasons for this as well as the overall underestimation of natural harms. Many animals are admitted to centers for reasons that are unknown, undetermined, or misdiagnosed, and important information such as age and sex are often unreported. There is also a lack of information about how natural harms are contributing factors to anthropogenic threats. These findings are in line with what is found in the literature and in the majority of the scientific presentations in vet and biology conferences, where over-representation of human induced casualties overshadows casualties due to natural causes. We hope this report will help to shed more light on these important issues.

Despite these limitations, the study increases our understanding of some of the natural harms affecting wild animals and how they may interact with anthropogenic harms. As we become more aware of the various threats and interacting factors that cause wild animals to suffer, we can use this knowledge to improve rescue efforts and develop more effective ways of helping to reduce this suffering in the future.

You can read the full report here (below is the introduction):


Factors impacting the welfare of animals in the wild: Data from rescue centers and animal sanctuaries in Greece

Introduction

To date, the welfare of wild animals living outside direct human control remains gravely understudied. This is at odds with the interest in studying the welfare of domesticated animals, despite the two groups having a similar capacity to experience poor welfare. While it is sometimes considered difficult to study, some of the factors affecting the welfare of wild animals are accessible to examination — in fact, they have often been researched because they are relevant to commonly studied issues such as the behavior or mortality of animals in the wild. Although the primary focus of such studies is not the welfare of the animals, the studies provide information that can help inform policies and programs designed for the sake of the animals themselves.

The majority of studies that have investigated wild animal suffering have largely focused on anthropogenic harms, while little attention has been given to natural harms such as illness and accidents. This paper aims to identify some of the factors negatively affecting the welfare of animals in the wild by looking at the data compiled by wild animal sanctuaries and rescue centers in Greece, particularly with respect to natural harms. The types of animals admitted to these centers and the most commonly reported reasons for admission are analyzed and we discuss how accurately this data may represent wild animal suffering as a whole. This study also examines how natural factors may be an underlying cause of other reasons for admission, such as sick or starving animals being more prone to anthropogenic threats like car accidents. The possible effects of sex, age, and seasonality on wild animal injuries and mortalities are also discussed, and limitations of the current research are identified. The paper concludes with suggestions for future research regarding animal suffering in the wild.