Carnivores: Provide live vertebrate prey

How is the evidence assessed?
  • Effectiveness
  • Certainty
  • Harms

Study locations

Key messages

  • One before-and-after study in the USA found that hunting behaviour increased and sleeping decreased when a fishing cat was provided with live fish.
  • One replicated, before-and-after study in the USA found that there was no change in the occurrence of stereotypical behaviours in tigers when provided with live fish.

About key messages

Key messages provide a descriptive index to studies we have found that test this intervention.

Studies are not directly comparable or of equal value. When making decisions based on this evidence, you should consider factors such as study size, study design, reported metrics and relevance of the study to your situation, rather than simply counting the number of studies that support a particular interpretation.

Supporting evidence from individual studies

  1. A small before-and-after study in 1991 of a fishing cat Felis viverrina in an off-exhibit zoo enclosure in the USA found that when provisioned with live fish, sleeping behaviour decreased and hunting behaviour increased compared to behaviour before the provision of live fish. Sleeping behaviour decreased (21%) and hunting behaviour increased (39%) when provisioned with live fish compared to before live fish were provided (sleeping: 67%, hunting: 0%). One fishing cat was observed for six non-consecutive days before the treatment followed by six non-consecutive days where one or two live fish were placed in pools in the enclosure. A second baseline period of six days followed this. The cat was fed its regular diet of processed meat daily between 08:30 h and 09:30 h. Observations began 30 minutes after the fishing cat re-entered the enclosure after the fish were released into the pools. Instantaneous focal sampling at 30 second intervals for 30 minute periods were recorded twice daily over a period of two months.

    Study and other actions tested
  2. A small replicated, before-and-after study in 2003 of Sumatran tigers Panthera tigris sumatrae in a zoo in the USA found that when presented with live fish, there were no significant differences in the frequency of stereotypical behaviours compared to days without live fish. Two tigers were fed a commercial feline diet six days a week and were not fed on the seventh day, instead they received a horse leg bone. There were four conditions, each lasting four weeks: 1) baseline,  2) bones were supplied twice per week, 3) live fish were placed inside shallow water pools twice per week, and 4) post-manipulation baseline. Each tiger was observed for nine one-hour sessions in each condition using instantaneous scan sampling at one-minute intervals.

    Study and other actions tested
Please cite as:

Jonas, C.S., Timbrell, L.L., Young, F., Petrovan, S.O., Bowkett, A.E. & Smith, R.K. (2020) Management of Captive Animals. Pages 527-553 in: W.J. Sutherland, L.V. Dicks, S.O. Petrovan & R.K. Smith (eds) What Works in Conservation 2020. Open Book Publishers, Cambridge, UK.


Where has this evidence come from?

List of journals searched by synopsis

All the journals searched for all synopses

Management of Captive Animals

This Action forms part of the Action Synopsis:

Management of Captive Animals
Management of Captive Animals

Management of Captive Animals - Published 2018

Captive Animal Synopsis

What Works 2021 cover

What Works in Conservation

What Works in Conservation provides expert assessments of the effectiveness of actions, based on summarised evidence, in synopses. Subjects covered so far include amphibians, birds, mammals, forests, peatland and control of freshwater invasive species. More are in progress.

More about What Works in Conservation

Download free PDF or purchase
The Conservation Evidence Journal

The Conservation Evidence Journal

An online, free to publish in, open-access journal publishing results from research and projects that test the effectiveness of conservation actions.

Read the latest volume: Volume 19

Go to the CE Journal

Discover more on our blog

Our blog contains the latest news and updates from the Conservation Evidence team, the Conservation Evidence Journal, and our global partners in evidence-based conservation.

Who uses Conservation Evidence?

Meet some of the evidence champions

Endangered Landscape Programme Red List Champion - Arc Kent Wildlife Trust The Rufford Foundation Save the Frogs - Ghana Bern wood Supporting Conservation Leaders National Biodiversity Network Sustainability Dashboard Frog Life The international journey of Conservation - Oryx British trust for ornithology Cool Farm Alliance UNEP AWFA Butterfly Conservation People trust for endangered species Vincet Wildlife Trust