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A preliminary model of human-animal relationships in the zoo

By G. Hosey

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The concept of the human-animal relationship (HAR) is widely used in farm animal research to describe the outcome of the different qualities and quantities of interaction between stockpersons and the animals in their care. Thus, negative, positive or neutral HARs may result from the effect of mostly negative (e.g. rough handling), neutral (e.g. no handling) or positive (e.g. gentle handling) interactions. In this paper the concept is applied to zoo animals in an attempt to provide a model not only of HARs between zoo animals and keepers, but also between zoo animals and unfamiliar people, primarily the visiting public. Behavioural responses of animals to zoo visitors are inconsistent both within and between taxa, and the history of interactions the individual animal has experienced, and hence the HARs it has developed, may be one of the variables that leads to this inconsistency. The model starts, like the farm animal models, with the animals' fear of humans, which is itself dependent upon species. The subsequent history of interactions the animal experiences, both with familiar and unfamiliar people, then determines the animal's HAR, which in turn influences the way the animal responds to people. There are currently insufficient data to test the model, but predictions of the model are identified here which could be used to test it.

Date 2008
Publication Title Applied Animal Behaviour Science
Volume 109
Issue 2/4
Pages 105-127
ISBN/ISSN 0168-1591
Language English
Author Address Psychology & Life Sciences, University of Bolton, Deane Road, Bolton BL3 5AB, UK.
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal behavior
  2. Birds
  3. Employees
  4. Fear
  5. Guests
  6. Interactions
  7. Livestock
  8. Mammals
  9. models
  10. peer-reviewed
  11. personnel
  12. Primates
  13. Relationships
  14. staff
  15. visitors
  16. Zoo and captive wild animals
  17. Zoological gardens
  18. Zoos
  1. peer-reviewed