Centre for the Environment

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Lisa Yon

Associate Professor in Zoo and Wildlife Medicine, Faculty of Medicine & Health Sciences


  • workRoom C04 Gateway Building
    Sutton Bonington Campus
    Sutton Bonington
    LE12 5RD
  • work0115 951 6358


Lisa Yon obtained a BSc in Pscyhology from the University of Toronto, Canada. She received a Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine from Cornell University, U.S.A., in 1996. She received her PhD from the University of California, Davis, U.S.A. in 2006 in Physiology (Endocrinology of Musth in Asian Bull Elephants), having conducted the majority of her research on elephants in Thailand. She joined the School of Veterinary Medicine and Science in 2007.

Expertise Summary

Lisa Yon is an Associate Professor in Zoo and Wildlife Medicine at the School of Veterinary Medicine and Science. She is Head of the Behaviour Subgroup, and Vice Chair, of BIAZA's Elephant Welfare Group. She is past Chair of the European Wildlife Disease Association. She is a member of the Health and Welfare Committee at Twycross Zoo, and served for 8 years as a member of the Ethics Committee for the Zoological Society of London and. She is a member of the IUCN Wildlife Health Specialist Group. She is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Frozen Ark Project. She serves as a member of the Scientific Advisory Committee for the non-profit organisation Trunks and Leaves, whose aim is to promote conservation of wild Asian elephants. She is a Member of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, and served as Head of the Wildlife Team for the recently completed WildTech project ('Novel Technologies for Surveillance of Emerging and Re-emerging Infections of Wildlife').

Research Summary

I am interested in the health, welfare and conservation of captive and free-living wildlife (with a particular focus on elephants), which includes a One Health approach looking at the interface… read more

Recent Publications

Current Research

I am interested in the health, welfare and conservation of captive and free-living wildlife (with a particular focus on elephants), which includes a One Health approach looking at the interface between humans/domestic animals/wildlife and their environment. I am involved in and developing a number of projects which approach these issues from various angles.

Assessment and improvement of the behavioural welfare of captive elephants

I am currently overseeing a range of undergraduate and postgraduate projects to address these issues, through my role as Head of the Behaviour Subgroup of the government advisory committee, the Elephant Welfare Group. Here are details on a recently completed project. Our work includes: developing and validating tools for behavioural welfare assessment, an evidence-based review of UK government guidelines, developing new methods for assessing the efficacy of Environmental Enrichment, and developing novel forms of enrichment for elephants. I am currently co-supervising a PhD student who is looking at social behaviour and social compatibility in captive elephants.

Environmental Geochemistry and Animal Health

Elephant population movement in connection with geochemistry

We have projects to exploring links between environmental geochemistry (mineral balance in soil and water, and in the plants growing in that environment) and animal health, particularly wildlife. This work is in collaboration with colleagues at the British Geological Survey (Prof. Mel Leng and Dr. Michael Watts), and from the School of Biosciences at the University of Nottingham (Prof. Simon Langley-Evans).

One Health: Environmental contaminants, wildlife, domestic animal and human health

The Impact of Trace Metal Contaminants on Environmental and Animal Health: A Multi-Disciplinary Approach

We are currently working on a project in collaboration with Natural Resources Wales, looking at the impact of trace metal contaminants (from old lead mines in Wales) on ecosystem and wildlife health, with potential implications for domestic animal and human health. Work is underway at two sites in Wales (chosen because preliminary evidence indicated there is a high level of contamination at both sites), assessing the presence and movement of contaminants through the landscape, their bioaccumulation, and their potential impact on animals inhabiting that landscape. This multi-disciplinary project involves collaboration with colleagues at the University of Nottingham in the School of Geography (Matthew Johnson); the School of Veterinary Medicine & Science (Malcolm Bennett, Kerstin Baiker), and in the School of Biosciences (Scott Young).

Assessing the Impact of Environmental Contaminants in the Kruger National Park, South Africa: From Sediments to Crocodiles

We have a new project investigating the presence, flow and bioaccumulation of organic and inorganic contaminants along the Olifants River in South Africa, and implications for wildlife (and potentially domestic animal and human) health, along the Olifants River, and in Kruger National Park. A range of potential sources of contaminants have been identified in this system including: trace metal contaminants from local mines, acid runoff from coal mines, untreated human waste from nearby towns, and agrochemical contaminants from farms adjacent to the river. This project involves assessment of the presence of contaminants in environmental, invertebrate, fish and crocodile samples, with a view to identifying the major contaminants, their movement through the system, and their potential impact on wildlife health. This project will be conducted in collaboration with colleagues at the South African Environmental Observation Network (SAEON) and the South African National Parks Authority (SANParks), as well as colleagues at the University of Nottingham in the School of Geography (Matthew Johnson); the School of Veterinary Medicine & Science (Kerstin Baiker), and the School of Biosciences (Liz Bailey) as well as at the British Geological Survey (Chris Vane). It is hoped this will be the beginning of a larger, longer project investigating this issue across the landscape, working in conjunction with stakeholders in the community and policy makers, to identify and attempt to change risky practices associated with introduction and spread of these contaminants.

Impact of diet on the health and welfare of captive carnivores

No comprehensive investigation has been undertaken to ascertain the role of diet and feeding (fasting) regime on carnivore health and welfare, despite potential for dietary modification to contribute to the welfare status of carnivores housed in captivity. We are engaged in a multi-disciplinary, holistic approach, making use of recent advances in the understanding of carnivore nutrition, physiology, behavior, and stress, to determine the effect of diet on gastrointestinal health, and the welfare state, of captive tigers.

Future Research

Elephant Welfare

We are developing further projects to understand and improve the welfare of captive elephants in the UK, and throughout the world. These projects include:

  1. Development of alternative methods to assess movement in elephants and assess activity levels (potentially using GSP collar/anklet and/or an accelerometer)
  2. Determine minimum space requirements for captive elephants, and the impact of different amounts of space on elephant behaviour
  3. Understanding stereotypies, and potential cognitive changes that occur in elephants in association with their expression
  4. Developing further ways to assess elephant demeanour in relation to welfare assessment; explore development of cognitive bias testing

Centre for the Environment

C/O School of Geography
The University of Nottingham
University Park
Nottingham NG7 2RD

telephone: +44 (0)115 846 7712