Northern Kentucky University

Poster Title

Effects of Visitor Group Size on the Number of Abnormal Behaviors in Captive Bonobos (Pan paniscus) Housed in Outdoor and Indoor Zoo Exhibits

Institution

Northern Kentucky University

Abstract

The welfare of animals held in captivity is of increasing concern, particularly in zoo environments where animals have closer contact and constant interaction with humans. The effect of these interactions on the stress levels of captive zoo animals is not fully understood and difficult to quantify, but the observance of abnormal behaviors typically indicate higher stress levels. Most animals studied are negatively affected by constant interaction with visitors, but some species, like captive bonobos (Pan paniscus), actively instigate interactions indicating that these may be positive. We completed instantaneous group scans and focal scans to determine if the number of abnormal behaviors changed when the bonobos were in an indoor exhibit (where interactions occur frequently) or an outdoor exhibit (where interactions do not occur) at The Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Gardens in 54 hours of observations. Mann-Whitney tests determined that there was not a significant difference in the number of abnormal behaviors exhibited at either exhibit (Z=-0.205, p=0.837). A Spearman’s rank correlation test determined that there was not a significant correlation between the number of abnormal behaviors and the numbers of visitors (ρ=0.03, N=167, p=0.699). These results did not support the hypotheses, but suggest that visitor interactions do not cause higher levels of stress in P. paniscus. In many zoo animal exhibits, it is best for zookeepers and exhibit designers to inhibit interactions between guests and the animals. Based on the results of this study, it may be better for P. paniscus welfare if healthy interactions are not inhibited.

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Effects of Visitor Group Size on the Number of Abnormal Behaviors in Captive Bonobos (Pan paniscus) Housed in Outdoor and Indoor Zoo Exhibits

The welfare of animals held in captivity is of increasing concern, particularly in zoo environments where animals have closer contact and constant interaction with humans. The effect of these interactions on the stress levels of captive zoo animals is not fully understood and difficult to quantify, but the observance of abnormal behaviors typically indicate higher stress levels. Most animals studied are negatively affected by constant interaction with visitors, but some species, like captive bonobos (Pan paniscus), actively instigate interactions indicating that these may be positive. We completed instantaneous group scans and focal scans to determine if the number of abnormal behaviors changed when the bonobos were in an indoor exhibit (where interactions occur frequently) or an outdoor exhibit (where interactions do not occur) at The Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Gardens in 54 hours of observations. Mann-Whitney tests determined that there was not a significant difference in the number of abnormal behaviors exhibited at either exhibit (Z=-0.205, p=0.837). A Spearman’s rank correlation test determined that there was not a significant correlation between the number of abnormal behaviors and the numbers of visitors (ρ=0.03, N=167, p=0.699). These results did not support the hypotheses, but suggest that visitor interactions do not cause higher levels of stress in P. paniscus. In many zoo animal exhibits, it is best for zookeepers and exhibit designers to inhibit interactions between guests and the animals. Based on the results of this study, it may be better for P. paniscus welfare if healthy interactions are not inhibited.