Case Study: Sea Lion Body Condition Scoring

Conducting keeper-driven research is a large part of our research agenda here at Colchester Zoo. Keepers have a unique opportunity to collect data about animal health and behaviour and are in the perfect position to apply any recommended changes as a result of this research.

Body Condition Scoring (BCS) is a valuable clinical indicator of animal welfare which can be used effectively to assess the health and implied well-being of an animal. BCS in zoo animals is limited to species for which a validated system has been established.

The sea lion keepers from Colchester Zoo’s Animal Care Team have been working to produce a BCS method for Patagonia sea lions by taking monthly weights, measurements and photos of each of our 4 sea lions and recording this against their current intake of food.

Once a long-term database of data has been collected, keepers and research staff will be able to calculate the average weight of each sea lion and use this to plot and describe visible signs of any significant increases or decreases in weight.

To validate this BCS method, keepers and research staff will collect images of both wild and captive Patagonian sea lions to apply the scoring system to. For this, we are looking for the support of any organisations who work with the species. If you would like to get involved, please contact

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