No more appointments

As of 2014 I do not offer consultations in private practices anymore. I am pursuing my work as researcher and lecturer at university  … more 


Teaching animal husbandry and care

Since 2011 I teach for the Swiss animal dealer association in Lausanne. This year I also participate in the training of animal keepers at the professional school EPSIC in Lausanne.  … more 


Radioprogram on animal communication

A subject that annoys, surprises, triggers smiles or disdain, and yet aleviates our daily grind some times. We are talking about animal communication. A radioprogram in French  … more 


Consulting in animal husbandry and care

Keeping animals requires sooner or later some contemplation about how and where to do so. The fundamental requirements include a species-adapted housing, nutrition and occupation. To prevent diseases I am keen to inform you about husbandry, environmental enrichment and nutrition.

Infectious diseases can be transmitted between enclosures by the keeper but also by undesired animals such as mice, rats and cockroaches. As animal keeper you may also get infected with zoonotic germs. To prevent this it is important to be aware of the diseases, their epidemiology, maintain hygienic working procedures and in larger establishments, even impose standardised operating procedures (SOPs).

A thorough reflection about breeding and raising animals is necessary. Not only is it a costly endeavour, but what happens automatically in the wild is not trivial in captivity. Different requirements of pregnant animals, genetics, upbringing, subsequent placement of offspring and much more needs to be considered. I offer advice for breeding to support your efforts.

Animal husbandry

A husbandry system that is species-adapted simulates the ecological niche in which the species has evolved. Depending on the species, different factors are of paramount importance. For example the environmental temperature is significantly more important for reptiles and fishes, which are exothermic, than for birds and mammals, which can regulate their temperature autonomously. Further parameters are relative humidity, illumination, UV-irradiation, water, water filtration, ventilation etc. The optimal interplay of all these factors ensures the physical well-being of the animal.

When planning an animal enclosure, it is important to consider the work procedures that need to be performed by the keepers, veterinarians etc. Much trouble can be avoided if cleaning, quarantine, disinfection etc. are taken into account during the planning of a facility. This applies as much to terrariums, aquaria, aviaries as for outdoor enclosures, to small and larger facilities. A special focus should be laid on a possible outbreak of an infectious disease, how this can be handled in the facility and how individual animals can be separated without being isolated from their social unit.

Environmental enrichment

The psychological well-being of your animal does not depend solely on the physical conditions in its environment. In captivity animals need occupation, which they would have automatically during the search for food and social interactions in nature. Therefore their environment must stimulate the five senses and the mind in order to keep them healthy. A captive environment can be enriched by substrate, branches and plants, but also by varying feeding methods, keeping social units, toys, dressage, training or breeding offspring.

It is important that the husbandry and occupation always refer to the nature of the species and that no fundamental requirements are neglected.

NB: Remember that the law obliges you to look after the physical and psychological well-being of your animal! Switzerland and the European Union prescribe minimal dimensions and requirements in the animal welfare legislation. From an ethical and scientific point of view it is however, desirable that you exceed these and further approximate the natural habitat of your animal.


Good nutrition starts with the correct storage of the feed. For example hay looses its content of vitamin C within 6 months and is thus inappropriate for guinea pigs after this period. Many vitamins are sensitive to light or oxidise when exposed to air. Well sealed containers additionally prevent vermin to feast in your provisions or to contaminate it with infective agents. To provide a good nutrition feed must be stored clean and appropriately.

There are three fundamental feeding types: herbivore, omnivore and carnivore. Naturally there is a plethora of variations in-between that depends on the species to feed. If the feed does not correspond to the variation encountered in the natural habitat of the species, nutritional deficiencies or excesses and corresponding diseases are to be expected. Also the climate and the housing conditions have an influence on the nutritional requirements. Furthermore, the feeding needs to consider the individual requirements of the animal. Growing animals need an appropriate supply of calcium and phosphorus, top-performing animals more energy, and old animals a bit less food. The compilation of a feeding plan is by no means trivial and requires vigilance and thoughtfulness.

Feed should always be fresh and clean. During feed preparation hygiene is important to prevent diseases caused by putrefactive or infectious agents. Feed can also be environmental enrichment! The preparation does not need to be convenient for the eater. Nevertheless, it must provide sufficient and equilibrated nutrition for the animal.

Water must be provided for all animals at all time. Mind, that even the weakest animal in a social unit has access to clean water. Bathing ponds are no replacement for a trough! The water animals drink should have the quality of drinking water.

Working procedures and vermin control

Micro-organisms that can cause disease are ubiquitous and in the majority of the cases they don't represent a problem. A quarantine will prevent the introduction of germs by newly introduced animals. Even though, it is at times inevitable that infectious diseases invade an animal facility, but it is important not to spread them involuntarily within. This may happen through objects, shoes of personnel or vermin. Also bear in mind that animals may (indiscernibly) carry diseases, which can be dangerous to man (zoonoses). Be it salmonella in reptiles or lyssa-viruses in bats - in any case, the risk must be managed reasonably.

Operating procedures during animal husbandry should minimise the risk for animals and man but nevertheless allow for an ergonomic and economic workflow. This depends on the type of facility and conditions and is best considered during the planning of an animal keeping facility. In larger facilities it is worth wile establishing standardised operating procedures and monitoring them with a HACCP-protocol (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point).

The control of vermin is a challenge especially in large animal facilities. Obviously edificial measures play an important role, but also apparently trivial things such as door closure and working procedures can prevent the accidental feeding and spreading of vermin. If the vermin population grows too much, further measures need to be taken and beneficial animals, repellents or poisons may help. Especially before chemical interventions their mechanism and specificity of action need to be established in order to prevent collateral damage.


Breeding animals in a captive environment eliminates natural selection and a free mating behaviour. This has unforeseeable consequences for subsequent generations. In my opinion, it is an illusion to maintain genetic variability based on markers and one should be conscience that the species specific habitat will provide the best breeding conditions. Thus, breeding in captivity is primarily occupation for the parents concerned and the keepers. The fate of the offspring needs to be decided as it is often difficult to place captive bred exotic animals.

Species-adapted breeding and upbringing of animals requires a lot of expertise, is very time consuming and costly. Parents and offspring have specific requirements in regards to climate, housing, nutrition and the behaviour of keepers. Such a project should not be started without thorough preparation.