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Zoo professionals and volunteers in the U.S: experiences and prevalence of burnout, mental health, and animal loss (McDonald et al., 2024).

April 2024

A study published in Frontiers in Psychiatry investigated burnout and mental health in 1695 U.S-based zoo professionals and volunteers:
Animal care and health professionals reported higher levels of depression and anxiety, and lower professional fulfilment, than other zoo staff.
Animal care staff's reported bond with animals associated with depression and anxiety.
Formal ritual/process following death of animal: + job fulfilment, - depression & anxiety, but only 17% of participants reported their zoo had such processes. 
Zoos must normalise and validate grief/loss experiences and provide their staff with the necessary support to deal with trauma and occupational stressors.

Do not disturb: Visitors' effect on the behavior and welfare of female and male big cats in zoos (Spiezio et al., 2023).

June 2023

How do visitors affect the behaviour of zoo-housed big cats? A study published in Zoo Biology investigated:
Three species - Amur tiger, snow leopard, Eurasian lynx - observed in two periods: zoo open & zoo closed.
Higher inactivity when zoo open in all but female lynx.
Some natural behaviours were more frequently observed when zoo was closed, although results varied within & across species.
Increase in inactivity with longer exposure to visitors when zoo was open.
Applications to the management and welfare of zoo-housed big cats.

Behavioural effects of a giraffe public feeding programme on Masai giraffe Giraffa tippelskirchi and plains zebra Equus quagga in a mixed-species exhibit (Koopman, Brinda & DiVincenti, 2023).

January 2023

The new issue of the JZAR brings fresh new research on the effects of a giraffe feeding programme on the behaviour of both the giraffes and zebras in the exhibit:
Keeper-collected data.
No negative behavioural effects detected on either species.
Individual differences in behaviour recorded: further research recommended.

Zookeeper–Animal Bonds and Their Relationship with Conservation Action (Thomas et al., 2022).

January 2023

A study in JZBG surveyed 144 US-based zoo keepers to look for relationships between their perceived bonds with the animals in their care and their participation in conservation efforts:
Keepers that reported bonds with the animals were more likely to participate in some conservation actions, such as reduce personal wastage.
No association between keeper-animal bonds & participation in larger-scale conservation projects, such as habitat restoration.
Results can help informing zoos on how to promote behaviour change in both their visitors and staff.

Behavioural patterns in zoo-housed Humboldt penguins (Spheniscus humboldti) revealed using long-term keeper-collected data: Validation of approaches and improved husbandry (Goodenough, Sewell & McDonald, 2022).

January 2023

In our first post of 2023, here is an evidence-based reminder of how valuable keeper-collected data can be:
✔ Keeper-collected data on zoo-housed Humboldt penguins was validated by more intensive researcher-collected data.
✔ High agreement between data once "out of sight" was removed.
 Multi-year keeper data detected pronounced seasonal changes in behaviour.
✔ Reduced activity on days zoo was closed.
✔ Once validated, keeper-collected data can facilitate long-term behavioural monitoring of captive animals.

Dither: A unifying model of the effects of visitor numbers on zoo animal behavior (Krebs, Eschmann & Watters, 2022).

September 2022

A new model of visitor effects on zoo animal behaviour has been described in a new paper in Zoo Biology:
 "Dither effect" suggested, with non-linear behavioural responses (i.e. changes in comfortable- & anxiety-related behaviours) to different visitor densities;
 Model tested on seven species with results supporting the dither effect.

Members of the Pod: Do Marine Mammal Trainers Perceive a Bond with the Animals They Care For? (Welsh et al., 2022)

August 2022

A study in JZBG investigated the perceived bonds of marine mammal trainers with the bottlenose dolphins in their care:
Modified Lexington Attachment to Pets Scale (LAPS) used;

128 trainers from 35 collections completed survey;
Most trainers reported to have a bond with the animals in their care, though scores were higher for companion animals;
Higher scores in female than male trainers.

Factors affecting the behavior of captive white rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum) and the accuracy of ad-hoc keeper data (Goodenough et al., 2022)

August 2022

The behaviour of zoo-housed white rhinoceros was studied in a paper published in Zoo Biology, with data collected by researchers & keepers:
Rhinos showed decreased activity in hot and sunny days;
Number of visitors had a negligible effect on behaviour (resting lower on busy days);
Overall match between researcher and keeper data, with differences in specific behaviours and periods of high visitor numbers.

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.

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.

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.

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;

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

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



Scientific Papers

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