Depression impacts immunity in zoo animals

Researchers have found that zoo animals are showing symptoms of depression, loneliness, monotony and stress are all contributing to a lower level of immunity the latest finding could have implications on the causes and potential treatment of such conditions in humans.

Zoo keepers have a difficult balancing act, trying to maintain the welfare of the animals while also providing the public with a close up view of species they would otherwise only see in pictures.

Animals living in the wild have gain huge amounts of exercise, they have to hunt and catch their own pray and live in varied natural environments. In captivity this would be impossible to replicate. Subsequently, animals living captivity show stereotypy behaviours which is the repetitive or ritualistic movements such as rocking or pacing in their pens.

As a result the immune systems of animals in captivity are less than half of what they should be, subsequently; unnatural deaths such as tuberculosis, pneumonia and trypanosomiasis are common in zoos.

This latest research shows that environmental factors could be causing or maintaining depression for example sitting in one room, not getting fresh air or exercise, eating processed foods that are nutrient deficient that we have not prepared or cooked for our selves, this general detachment from the earth that was fundamental to human’s pre-historic ancestors survival has been lost.

There are things that can be done to help prevent depression, stress and loneliness. Taking a daily walk in the park, getting fresh air, exercise and re-connecting with nature could be a good place to start. Clinical research has shown that this can boost mood, wellbeing and immunity.

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