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An hourly variation in zoo visitor interest: measurement and significance for animal welfare research

By G. Davey

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A methodological difficulty facing welfare research on nonhuman animals in the zoo is the large number of uncontrolled variables due to variation within and between study sites. Zoo visitors act as uncontrolled variables, with number, density, size, and behaviour constantly changing. This is worrisome because previous research linked visitor variables to animal behavioural changes indicative of stress. There are implications for research design: Studies not accounting for visitors' effect on animal welfare risk confounding (visitor) variables distorting their findings. Zoos need methods to measure and minimize effects of visitor behaviour and to ensure that there are no hidden variables in research models. This article identifies a previously unreported variable - hourly variation (decrease) in visitor interest - that may impinge on animal welfare and validates a methodology for measuring it. That visitor interest wanes across the course of the day has important implications for animal welfare management; visitor effects on animal welfare are likely to occur, or intensify, during the morning or in earlier visits when visitor interest is greatest. This article discusses this issue and possible solutions to reduce visitor effects on animal wellbeing.

Publication Title Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science
Volume 9
Issue 3
Pages 249-256
ISBN/ISSN 1088-8705
Publisher Taylor & Francis
DOI 10.1207/s15327604jaws0903_7
Language English
Author Address Psychology Department, University of Chester, Chester, CH1 4BJ,
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal behavior
  2. Animal rights
  3. Animal welfare
  4. Behavior and behavior mechanisms
  5. Guests
  6. peer-reviewed
  7. Stress
  8. Techniques
  9. visitors
  10. Zoo and captive wild animals
  11. Zoological gardens
  12. Zoos
  1. peer-reviewed