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Dec 13, 2007

'Don't stand so close to me'!


‘Don’t stand so close to me’! from Chester Zoo - North of England Zoological Society
 
Changes in the behaviour and welfare of mandrills, following the installation of botanical planters to reduce visitor proximity. It is widely accepted that the presence

‘Don’t stand so close to me’! Changes in the behaviour and welfare of mandrills, following the installation of botanical planters to reduce visitor proximity. It is widely accepted that the presence of human visitors can affect the behaviour of zoo animals, even if the effects are not yet understood fully for all species.

There are several directions that the visitor effect can take: it can be a positive one, in which the outcome may be enriching or similar to positive encounters with members of other species in the wild, or it can be negative, whereby some aspects of the visitors’ presence disturb the animals and may cause welfare problems, or it can be neutral, in which there is no association between zoo visitors and zoo animal behaviour and welfare.

This study was conducted in response to reports by primate keepers, that some mandrills were displaying abnormal behaviours at the enclosure’s large, indoor viewing windows. These behaviours included hair-plucking or visitor-directed behaviour (e.g. glass-smacking with their hands, head-bobbing, ‘yawning,’ crest-raising and teeth-baring). Baseline data were collected, to test the hypothesis that visitor presence was associated with these behaviours, and this association was confirmed.

A stand-off barrier, made of botanical planters, was then designed to increase the distance between visitors and the glass, and to make the view through the windows less continuous. It was predicted this would afford more privacy to the mandrills and improve their welfare, whilst still maintaining a positive experience for visitors.

The efficacy of the planters in achieving this was measured, and results confirmed significant improvements in the mandrills’ behaviour and welfare.


Developed by:  Chester Zoo - North of England Zoological Society 



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