Zoological institutions develop human-animal interaction opportunities for visitors to advance missions of conservation, education, and recreation; however, the animal welfare implications largely have yet to be evaluated. This behavioral study was the first to quantify impacts of guest feeding programs on captive giraffe behavior and welfare, by documenting giraffe time budgets that included both normal and stereotypic behaviors. Thirty giraffes from nine zoos (six zoos with varying guest feeding programs and three without) were observed using both instantaneous scan sampling and continuous behavioral sampling techniques. All data were collected during summer 2012 and analyzed using linear mixed models. The degree of individual giraffe participation in guest feeding programs was positively associated with increased time spent idle and marginally associated with reduced time spent ruminating. Time spent participating in guest feeding programs had no effect on performance of stereotypic behaviors. When time spent eating routine diets was combined with time spent participating in guest feeding programs, individuals that spent more time engaged in total feeding behaviors tended to perform less oral stereotypic behavior such as object-licking and tongue-rolling. By extending foraging time and complexity, guest feeding programs have the potential to act as environmental enrichment and alleviate unfulfilled foraging motivations that may underlie oral stereotypic behaviors observed in many captive giraffes. However, management strategies may need to be adjusted to mitigate idleness and other program consequences. Further studies, especially pre-and-post-program implementation comparisons, are needed to better understand the influence of human-animal interactions on zoo animal behavior and welfare.
|Publication Title||Zoo Biology|
|Author Address||Department of Integrative Biology (formerly Zoology), Michigan State University, 288 Farm Lane Rm 203, East Lansing, MI 48824, USA.firstname.lastname@example.org|
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