Parco Natura Viva has one of the most active research programmes in the Italian zoo community. In October 2008 Parco Natura Viva organized the 1st national conference on zoo based researches; this meeting has become an important annual event. Parco Natura Viva’s Research Department conducts researches to improve animal management and wildlife conservation as well as to increase the knowledge about animal biology and welfare. Researches in Parco Natura Viva focus primarily on animal behaviour, cognition, sociality, environmental enrichment and training. Many students prepare their thesis under the supervision of the Research Department and different scientific publications are made each year.
As a modern zoo, Parco Natura Viva-Garda Zoological Park aims at the conservation of native and exotic species to ensure their survival in the wild and their good health in captivity. There are European husbandry guidelines for many species with rules for minimum accommodation, husbandry, diet, etc. Modern zoos need to renovate enclosures to give to the animals a captive condition close to their natural habitat, improving their welfare. Recently, Parco Natura Viva has been making gradual replacement of animal housing to complete the transformation into a modern zoological garden. Zookeepers take care of wild animals in zoos and work to ensure animal health and welfare.
The zoo-vet’s job is to keep the animals as healthy as possible and, together with keepers and scientists, optimise their welfare. Vets carry out a preventative health care programme, help with nutrition and advise on the design of enclosures. Since group composition is very important for animal welfare, the zoo-vets plan the transfers of animals between zoos: they are in contact with the European coordinators of the zoological collections and with the local authority. Zoo-vets also make scientific research to learn and spread information about their experience. New non-invasive techniques such as training, facilitate the vets’ job and dramatically reduce the stress of both the sick individual and its cage-mates.