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Hediger revisited: how do zoo animals see us?

By G. Hosey

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Contact with people, both familiar (e.g., caretakers) and unfamiliar (e.g., members of the public), is a significant part of the lives of nonhuman animals in zoos. The available empirical evidence shows that in many cases this contact represents a source of stress to the animals, although there is sufficient overall ambiguity in these studies to suggest that the effect of people on the animals is much more complex than this. A possible way to try to understand human-animal relationships in the zoo is to ask how the animals might perceive the humans with whom they have contact, and here this question is explored further, using a framework first published by Hediger as a starting point. Hediger suggested that zoo animals might perceive people as an enemy, as part of the inanimate environment, or as a member of the same species. He supported these categories with anecdotal evidence, which was all that was available at the time, but more empirical evidence is available now, so it is appropriate to revisit these categories. The evidence suggests that animals discriminate both conspecific and heterospecific others, rather than just viewing familiar people as members of their own species, and that additional categories (stimulating part of the environment and friendship) may be warranted. These categories are then placed in a general model that suggests how relationships of different qualities, and hence different perceptions of each other, might develop between animals and the people they are in contact with in zoos.

Publication Title Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science
Volume 16
Issue 4
Pages 338-359
ISBN/ISSN 1088-8705
Publisher Taylor & Francis
DOI 10.1080/10888705.2013.827916
Language English
Author Address School of Health & Social Studies, University of Bolton, Deane Road, Bolton BL3 5AB,
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal behavior
  2. Animals
  3. Animal welfare
  4. Anthropology
  5. Effect
  6. Gardens
  7. Human behavior
  8. Humans
  9. Hygiene
  10. Mammals
  11. Men
  12. peer-reviewed
  13. Primates
  14. Relationships
  15. Research
  16. Social psychology and social anthropology
  17. vertebrates
  18. Zoo and captive wild animals
  1. peer-reviewed