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Visitor effects on zoo orangutans in two novel, naturalistic enclosures

By YuanTing Choo, P. A. Todd, DaiQin Li

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Visitors are known to affect zoo animals, and such effects may be stressful, neutral, or enriching. The majority of research has focused on visitor number or visitor presence-absence, yet few studies have examined effects of other variables such as sound volume, visitor activity, and whether visitors interact with animals. In this study, the effects of visitor number, activity and proximity to animals were investigated on a group of captive orangutans in two treetop, 'free-ranging' exhibits at Singapore Zoo. Multinomial logistic regressions were used to elucidate the relationships between visitor and orangutan behaviours. Results from these analyses revealed a significant overall effect of the three visitor variables on orangutan behaviour. Interestingly, visitor number had little effect on the orangutans, except at one of the exhibits where the likelihood of food soliciting and looking at visitors increased when the number of people numbered more than 40. Visitor activity was generally not associated with any obvious signs of stress in the orangutans; visitors with food could even be a form of enrichment. However, visitors at close proximity decreased play behaviour and increased the chances of animals looking at the visitors. Enclosure design and habituation could have alleviated visitor effects for these two groups of orangutans. This study shows how investigation of a wider range of visitor variables may allow for more meaningful conclusions about the visitor effect, and that other factors such as enclosure design and habituation to visitors may also influence captive animal welfare.

Date 2011
Publication Title Applied Animal Behaviour Science
Volume 133
Issue 1/2
Pages 78-86
ISBN/ISSN 0168-1591
DOI 10.1016/j.applanim.2011.05.007
Language English
Author Address Department of Biological Sciences, National University of Singapore, 14 Science Drive 4, Singapore 117543, Singapore.
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal behavior
  2. Animal diseases
  3. Animal rights
  4. Animal welfare
  5. APEC countries
  6. ASEAN Countries
  7. Asia
  8. Behavior and behavior mechanisms
  9. Commonwealth of Nations
  10. Developed countries
  11. Effect
  12. Enrichment
  13. Great ape
  14. Mammals
  15. orangutans
  16. peer-reviewed
  17. Primates
  18. Research
  19. Singapore
  20. Stress
  21. Studies
  22. Threshold Countries
  23. Zoo and captive wild animals
  1. peer-reviewed