Animal Care


Kea Care

The kea 1 live in a single, large (520 m2) and extensively furnished aviary. This facility 2 supports the play incentive and communal life of these birds, and allows for individual birds to be tested in specialized compartments. Two ponds, several flower beds, bushes and trees, many large perching branches, huts and alcoves, feeding tables and play objects offer the animals a rich and cognitively stimulating environment.

At both ends of the 52 m long, 10 m wide and 5 m high (2600 cubic meters!) aviary two visually separated breeding compartment were constructed. In a large hut with a nest box, pairs of kea were encouraged to raise the future generation.

The two adjacent testing compartments could be divided in two, and separated from the rest of the aviary with or without visual separation. Two touchscreens, both connected to a computer and an automated feeder, allow for the investigation of perception and learning processes in kea.

Today there are 22 kea, 12 male and 10 female of varying ages, living in the large aviary. Over several years – and in part with human assistance – new offspring have been produced, thus securing the stock’s future. The research 3 is led by Prof. Ludwig Huber 4, with assistance from Dr. Gyula Gajdon and Raoul Schwing, PhD 5 (all Messerli Research Institute).



Corvid Care

Three aviaries, connected via corridors, with a total surface area of 680 m2 were constructed for the corvids. These were designed by Prof. Bugnyar with consideration of the way of life of the common raven and the required testing capabilities. Common ravens live in ever-changing communities. The paired animals live territorially, that is to say they claim and defend their territory.

The (not yet) paired animals live in groups, which are characterised by a constant interchange of individuals (“fission-fusion-system”). The facility at the Haidlhof is the first bird aviary in the world to attempt to recreate this dynamic. The individual parts are connected through a total of 15 doors and three flight corridors.

They allow respectively, the ravens to live in groups or pairs, dependent on their age and the season, and the researchers to change the size and composition of the raven groups experimentally and momentarily.

Additionally, each part contains a small testing compartment, where the ravens can work on cognitive tasks individually and undisturbed by conspecifics. Over the last 5 years, 30 common ravens spent their youth at the Haidlhof. As a comparative species a group of 10 carrion crows was established in 2012, which are kept in close proximity to the ravens. The research is led by Prof. Thomas Bugnyar 8 (University of Vienna).



Pig Care

In the summer of 2014, supported by the Messerli Foundation, a free-range habitat 11 for about 40 pigs 12 was constructed at the “Sägeacker” (“saw field”). Pigs require a natural, challenging and versatile habitat, to be able to apply their skill to the extent of their abilities and be supported in their development. Consequently, they are kept on pastures in a natural social system – a matrilinear group with three females and their offspring.

The animals live out their natural lives on the approx. 8 ha large pasture, in the midst of which there is a small forest (approx. 1 ha). In the forest the animals can find shade and solitude. 5 purpose-built A-shaped sleeping huts (double-walled with insulation, movable) and a mud pit. The frost-proof water supply consists of a well (12 m deep), an insulated water tower (1000 l capacity) and heated drinking reservoirs. A special clover mixture was plated on the pastures, which proveds the animals with sufficient feed.

The research facilities are located at the edge of the forest, in particular a testing hut with a learning box (touchscreen and computer) and a shipping container refurbished as an office. Using a video surveillance system, consisting of stationary and mobile video cameras, the pigs’ social structure and interactions are captured and later analysed. The research is led by Prof. Ludwig Huber 13 (University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna), with assistance from Veterinarian Marianne Wondrak 14 (both Messerli Research Institute).

© Isabelle Grubert