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Oct 2, 2007

Auditory Enrichment for Zoo-based Gorillas

Auditory Enrichment for Zoo-based Gorillas from Belfast Zoological Gardens

The gorilla is one of the longest living species of primate to be kept in captivity, therefore finding ways of improving the welfare of this species whilst in human care is thus of upmost importance

Auditory stimulation has long been employed as a form of therapy for humans and animals housed in institutions. Its effect on the gorilla, however, is unknown.

This study explored the effect of auditory stimulation on the behaviour, welfare and public perception of 6 gorillas housed in Belfast Zoo. All animals were exposed to 3 conditions of auditory stimulation: a control (no auditory stimulation), an ecologically relevant condition (rainforest sounds) and an ecologically non-relevant condition (classical music).

The gorillas' behaviour, and public perceptions of the animals and their exhibit, were recorded in each condition. Results showed that the gorillas exhibited more behaviours suggestive of relaxation during the ecologically relevant, and, in particular, the non-relevant, conditions than the control. Visitors' perceptions were also influenced by their auditory environment. Gorillas were considered to look more natural and less aggressive, and the exhibit was deemed to be more suitable for the animals, during the ecologically relevant condition.

Overall, findings suggest that auditory stimulation is a valuable method of enrichment for zoo-housed gorillas. However, findings highlight a discrepancy between the type of auditory stimulation that is most appropriate for the welfare of gorillas (classical music) and that which is preferred by zoo visitors (rainforest sounds).

Developed by:  Belfast Zoological Gardens

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