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Keeper-animal interactions: differences between the behaviour of zoo animals affect stockmanship

By S. J. Ward, V. Melfi

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Stockmanship is a term used to describe the management of animals with a good stockperson someone who does this in a in a safe, effective, and low-stress manner for both the stock-keeper and animals involved. Although impacts of unfamiliar zoo visitors on animal behaviour have been extensively studied, the impact of stockmanship i.e familiar zoo keepers is a new area of research; which could reveal significant ramifications for zoo animal behaviour and welfare. It is likely that different relationships are formed dependant on the unique keeper-animal dyad (human-animal interaction, HAI). The aims of this study were to (1) investigate if unique keeper-animal dyads were formed in zoos, (2) determine whether keepers differed in their interactions towards animals regarding their attitude, animal knowledge and experience and (3) explore what factors affect keeper-animal dyads and ultimately influence animal behaviour and welfare. Eight black rhinoceros ( Diceros bicornis), eleven Chapman's zebra ( Equus burchellii), and twelve Sulawesi crested black macaques ( Macaca nigra) were studied in 6 zoos across the UK and USA. Subtle cues and commands directed by keepers towards animals were identified. The animals latency to respond and the respective behavioural response (cue-response) was recorded per keeper-animal dyad (n=93). A questionnaire was constructed following a five-point Likert Scale design to record keeper demographic information and assess the job satisfaction of keepers, their attitude towards the animals and their perceived relationship with them. There was a significant difference in the animals' latency to appropriately respond after cues and commands from different keepers, indicating unique keeper-animal dyads were formed. Stockmanship style was also different between keepers; two main components contributed equally towards this: "attitude towards the animals" and "knowledge and experience of the animals". In this novel study, data demonstrated unique dyads were formed between keepers and zoo animals, which influenced animal behaviour.

Publication Title PLoS ONE
Volume 10
Issue 10
Pages e0140237
ISBN/ISSN 1932-6203
Language English
Author Address Paignton Zoo Environmental Park, Devon,
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal behavior
  2. Animal husbandry
  3. Animals
  4. APEC countries
  5. ASEAN Countries
  6. Asia
  7. Attitudes
  8. Behavior and behavior mechanisms
  9. British Isles
  10. Commonwealth of Nations
  11. Countries
  12. Demography
  13. Developed countries
  14. Developing countries
  15. Europe
  16. Gardens
  17. Horses
  18. Humans
  19. Impact
  20. Indonesia
  21. Interactions
  22. Livestock
  23. Macaques
  24. Mammals
  25. Men
  26. Monkeys
  27. North America
  28. OECD countries
  29. peer-reviewed
  30. Primates
  31. Questionnaires
  32. Relationships
  33. rhinoceros
  34. ungulates
  35. United Kingdom
  36. United States of America
  37. vertebrates
  38. visitors
  39. work
  40. Zebras
  41. Zoo and captive wild animals
  1. peer-reviewed