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Effects of guest feeding programs on captive giraffe behavior

By D. A. Orban, J. M. Siegford, R. J. Snider

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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
Volume 35
Issue 2
Pages 157-166
ISBN/ISSN 0733-3188
DOI 10.1002/zoo.21275
Language English
Author Address Department of Integrative Biology (formerly Zoology), Michigan State University, 288 Farm Lane Rm 203, East Lansing, MI 48824,
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal behavior
  2. Animal nutrition
  3. Animals
  4. Animal welfare
  5. Behavioral research
  6. Biodiversity
  7. Biological resources
  8. Comparisons
  9. Conservation
  10. Diets
  11. Ecology
  12. Education
  13. Effect
  14. Enrichment
  15. Extension
  16. Feeding
  17. Foraging
  18. Giraffes
  19. Health care
  20. Human behavior
  21. Humans
  22. Hygiene
  23. Impact
  24. Interactions
  25. Mammals
  26. Men
  27. models
  28. Nutrition
  29. nutrition programs
  30. Primates
  31. Psychiatry and psychology
  32. recreation
  33. Relationships
  34. Research
  35. responses
  36. Ruminants
  37. sampling
  38. Science
  39. services
  40. Social psychology and social anthropology
  41. Social sciences
  42. Sports
  43. summer
  44. Techniques
  45. training
  46. ungulates
  47. vertebrates
  48. Veterinary sciences
  49. welfare
  50. Zoo and captive wild animals
  51. Zoological gardens
  52. Zoology