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Zoo Closure Does Not Affect Behavior and Activity Patterns of Palawan Binturong (Arctictis binturong whitei)
(Finch et al., 2022)

August 2022

Is the behaviour of zoo-housed binturongs affected by zoo closures? A paper in JZBG investigated:
24-hour behavioural monitoring via CCTV system;
Time budget revealed crepuscular activity (natural in the species);
No differences between periods in den use, vigilance or travel behaviors;
Findings suggest neutral visitor effects on the species and highlights the advantages of investing in equipment for remote behavioural monitoring.

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Comparing Space Use and Fecal Glucocorticoid Concentrations during and after the COVID-19 Closure to Investigate Visitor Effects in Multiple Species 
(Edes et al., 2022)

July 2022

A study in JZBG investigated the effects of COVID-19 closures on the space use & glucocorticoid levels of multiple species:
 Glucocorticoid levels were not different between closure & reopening for any bears & were temporarily elevated in only two bantengs;
 After reopening: bantengs spent more time near visitors, polar bears spent more time near viewing areas & grizzly bears spent more time in outdoor area rather than the den;
 Gorillas: spent less time near visitors initially when zoo reopened, but effect disappeared with time;
 In general, results suggest neutral to positive visitor effects on these animals.

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The influence of welfare and bonds with animals on the job satisfaction of felid keepers in North America 
(DeSmet & Ogle, 2022)

January 2022

A study in Zoo Biology investigated the link between job satisfaction in zoo felid keepers, their bonds with animals & animal welfare:
✔ 121 felid keepers from AZA-accredited institutions;
 Direct link between job satisfaction & access to animal welfare training;
 Correlation between job satisfaction and fulfillment of the Five Freedoms of Animal Welfare;
 Lower job satisfaction resulted in lower bond with nonfelids - but no link observed with felids...


Professional primate keepers and online primate imagery: an assessment of knowledge and attitudes (Daniels et al., 2021)

November 2021

New study in JZAR assessed primate keeper knowledge & attitudes towards sharing potentially-detrimental images online of themselves & primates (which the IUCN Primate Specialist Group Section for Human Primate Interactions advises against):

Of the 421 primate keepers that completed the questionnaire, over half (56%) reported to share such images;

Of the 128 images surveyed under #primatekeeper, 64% were of situations previously shown to be detrimental to primate conservation;

The majority of keepers were not aware of the IUCN PSG SHPI or their guidelines regarding the sharing of images.

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Furred and feathered friends: How attached are zookeepers to the animals in their care?(Melfi et al., 2021)

October 2021

A study in Zoo Biology investigated Keeper-Animal Relationships (KAR) in 187 zoo keepers in 19 institutions:

✔ Zoo Keepers reported higher attachment to their pets than the zoo animals in their care;

✔ No differences between zoo species;

Female keepers reported higher attachments to zoo animals than male keepers;

✔ Differences between institutions - "zoo culture" seems to influence KAR.

✔ Time spent with animals also significantly predicted KAR;

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Impacts of COVID-19 on Animals in Zoos: A Longitudinal Multi-Species Analysis (Williams et al., 2020)

March 2021

A paper in JZBG sought to investigate the impacts of zoo closures and re-openings (due to COVID-19) on the behaviour of several zoo-housed species:
 ✔ Variable behavioural changes across species;
 ✔ Most changes were non-significant;
 ✔ Grevy's zebras: > time in comfort behaviours & in public viewing-areas during closures;
 ✔ Chinese goral: > environmental interactions during closures;
✔ Some species may take longer to re-habituate to visitors.


Photo credit: RZSS Edinburgh Zoo

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The visitor effect in zoo-housed apes: the variable effect on behaviour of visitor number and noise (Hashmi & Sullivan, 2020)

October 2020

The visitor effects on zoo-housed apes (gorillas, chimpanzees and gibbons) were investigated in a study in JZAR:

 Noise levels increased with visitor numbers;

 Some behavioural changes suggested a potential negative effect on welfare;

 Intra- and inter-specific differences in reactions to the public;

 The visitor effect is complex and influenced by multiple factors.


Photo credit: Blackpool Zoo


© Maryland Zoo

Changes in human health parameters associated with an immersive exhibit experience at a zoological institution (Coolman et al., 2020)

April 27, 2020

Abstract: Zoological institutions often use immersive, naturalistic exhibits to create an inclusive atmosphere that is inviting for visitors while providing for the welfare of animals in their collections. In this study, we investigated physiological changes in salivary cortisol and blood pressure, as well as psychological changes among visitors before and after a walk through the River’s Edge, an immersive, naturalistic exhibit at the Saint Louis Zoo. Study participants had a significant reduction in salivary cortisol and blood pressure after walking through the exhibit. Psychological assessments of mood found that most visitors felt happier, more energized, and less tense after the visit. Additionally, participants who spent more time in River’s Edge, had visited River’s Edge prior to the study, and had seen more exhibits at the Zoo prior to entering River’s Edge experienced greater psychological and/or physiological benefits. We conclude that immersive, naturalistic exhibits in zoos can elicit positive changes in physiological and psychological measures of health and well-being and argue for a greater scientific focus on the role of zoos and other green spaces in human health.

Photo credit: Saint Louis Zoo

Book: Zoo Animal Learning and Training (Melfi et al., 2020)

January 10, 2020

About this book: This accessible, up-to-date book on animal training in a zoo/aquaria context provides a unified approach to zoo animal learning, bringing together the art and science of animal training. Written by experts in academia and working zoos, it incorporates the latest information from the scientific community along with current best practice, demystifying the complexities of training zoo animals. In doing so, it teaches readers how to effectively train animals and to fully understand the consequences of their actions.

Zoo Animal Learning and Training starts with an overview of animal learning theory. It describes the main categories of animal learning styles; considers the diverse natural history of zoo animals; reviews the research undertaken which demonstrates ultimate benefits of learning; and highlights the advantages and disadvantages of the different approaches. It also shows how the direct application of learning theory can be integrated into zoo animal management; discusses how other factors might affect development; and investigates situations and activities from which animals learn. It also explores the theoretical basis that determines whether enrichments are successful.

Implications of human-animal interactions on mother-calf interactions in a Bottlenose Dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) dyad (Welsh & Ward, 2019)

November 11, 2019

Abstract: Studies on human-animal interactions (HAIs) in zoos focus on the influence of familiar (keepers) or unfamiliar (visitors) humans on the animals. Limited research focusses on the familiar HAI and is yet to investigate the impact of familiar HAIs on mother-calf interactions, a topic yet to be explored in any species. The Bottlenose Dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) has been bred and trained in captivity for years and therefore provides scope to investigate the impact that familiar HAIs can have on mother-calf interactions. This study aimed to compare the dolphin-dyadic interactions before, during and after a training session. A single mother-calf dyad was observed for 50 hours at Mundomar dolphinarium, Spain. Instantaneous focal samples recorded the mother-calf interactions exhibited before, during and after HAI. The HAI category (medical, training, gating, separation and presentation) was also recorded. A Friedman Two-Way ANOVA and Related-Samples Wilcoxon Signed Rank Test showed no negative implications of HAI on mother-calf interactions, with ‘suckling’ observed significantly more after HAI and ‘not-interacting’ seen significantly less. HAI category found that dolphin interactions were seen more after medical interactions than other categories. Results suggest that the HAIs are encouraging increased interactions between the mother-offspring dyad and therefore suggests that the effect of HAIs is having a positive impact on dolphin mother and calf interactions. This study has provided a first step in assessing the impacts of positive HAI, in the form of training, on the development of the mother-calf relationship and given scope for further research in this area.

Photo credit: Mundomar Benidorm

A Protocol for the Ethical Assessment of Wild Animal–Visitor Interactions (AVIP) Evaluating Animal Welfare, Education, and Conservation Outcomes (de Mori et al., 2019)

September 10, 2019

Simple Summary: Animal–visitor interactions are the experiences offered by zoos, sanctuaries, and other tourism facilities in which people can be very close, and even touch, wildlife. This proximity could damage animal welfare and be a risk for the health of both animals and visitors. Proximity, however, has a positive emotional impact on visitors, representing an excellent opportunity to communicate conservation and educational messages. We present a protocol to evaluate interaction activities, and describe its application in a “giraffe feeding” interaction evaluation. Behavioral observations and a risk assessment evaluated the impact on animals. A risk assessment related to both visitors and staff and a questionnaire investigated the risks for people and the emotional, educational, and conservation outcomes. An ethical analysis, using an ethical matrix and a checklist, integrated the results, and identified the possible ethical concerns of the interaction. Giraffes’ behavioral freedom and welfare were safeguarded, and a positive emotional and conservation oriented impact was found, the only improvement that could be suggested, in case of restructuring of the facility, being the absence of hand washing facilities after the interaction. The protocol showed its potentiality to protect animal welfare and human health and to promote an ethical use of the interactions.

Are "visitor effects" overestimated? Behaviour in captive lemurs is mainly driven by co-variation with time and weather (Goodenough et al., 2019)

August 06, 2019

Abstract: The potential influence of visitors on behaviour of captive animals is well known. However, little research on “visitor effects” has also evaluated time of day and weather, which can affect behaviour directly and often also co-vary with visitor numbers. Here, visitor effects on captive ring-tailed lemurs (Lemur catta) are examined in a walk-through enclosure, where potential for visitor effects is especially high, while specifically considering weather and time of day (between 10:00 hr when lemurs were released into their outdoor enclosure and 16:00 hr when  then returned to overnight accommodation).Time, weather and visitor variables interacted in complex ways, but time and weather exerted the strongest effect on behaviour. Weather strongly affected resting, feeding/foraging, and locomotion. Sunbathing was highest in mornings; locomotion increased in afternoons. Visitor numbers were negatively associated with feeding/foraging and sunbathing; visitor activity was positively associated with locomotion and alertness. Crucially, however, visitor effects were small both overall and in relation to underlying effects of time/weather. Univariate models suggested visitors accounted for ~20% of behavioural variation; after time/weather had been included this dropped to ~6–8%. The study concludes that underlying visitor:time and visitor:weather correlations can lead to overestimation of visitor effects and offers recommendations for future work.

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