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A Comparison of Zoo Animal Behavior in the Presence of Familiar and Unfamiliar People

By Rosemary Anne Martin, Vicky Melfi

Category Journal Articles

As recorded in domestic nonhuman animals, regular interactions between animals in zoos and keepers and the resulting relationship formed (human–animal relationship [HAR]) are likely to influence the animals' behaviors with associated welfare consequences. HAR formation requires that zoo animals distinguish between familiar and unfamiliar people. This ability was tested by comparing zoo animal behavioral responses to familiar (routine) keepers and unfamiliar keepers (participants in the “Keeper for the Day” program). Study subjects included 1 African elephant (Loxodonta Africana), 3 Rothschild's giraffes (Giraffa camelopardalis rothschildi), 2 Brazilian tapir (Tapirus terrestris), and 2 slender-tailed meerkats (Suricata suricatta). Different behavior was evident and observed as decreased avoidance behavior toward familiar keepers (t7 = 6.00, p < .001). This finding suggests the zoo animals have a lower level of fear toward familiar keepers. Keeper familiarity did not significantly affect any other behavioral measure. This finding suggests that in the current study, unfamiliar keeper presence did not appear to have detrimental effects. Furthermore, unfamiliar keeper–animal interactions could provide an increased number of positive human–animal interactions and potentially enhance animal welfare.

Publication Title Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science
Volume 19
Issue 3
Pages 234-244
ISBN/ISSN 1088-8705
DOI 10.1080/10888705.2015.1129907
Language English
Additional Language English
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Analysis
  2. Animal husbandry
  3. Animal welfare
  4. Behavior and behavior mechanisms
  5. Bonds
  6. Elephants
  7. Family
  8. Females
  9. Giraffes
  10. Human-animal relationships
  11. Humans
  12. Males
  13. time
  14. ungulates
  15. United Kingdom
  16. Zoo and captive wild animals