• Furred and feathered friends: How attached are zookeepers to the animals in their care?

      Melfi, Vicky; Skyner, Lindsay; Birke, Lynda; Ward, Samantha J; Shaw, Wendy S; Hosey, Geoff (2021-10-18)
      Keeper-animal relationships (KARs) appear to be important in zoos, since they can enhance the well-being of both the animals and the keepers, can make animal husbandry easier, but conversely might risk inappropriate habituation of animals and possible risks to the safety of keepers. It is, therefore, important to know more about the variables involved in relationship formation. Here we use a modified version of the Lexington Attachment to Pets Scale (LAPS) to measure the strength of KARs between keepers and animals in their care, both in the zoo and in the home. LAPS questionnaires were completed by 187 keepers in 19 different collections across three countries. LAPS scores for attachment to zoo animals (ZA) were significantly lower than for pet animals (PA). There was no significant difference in ZA scores between different taxa, but there were significant taxon differences between PA scores. There were significant differences in both ZA and PA scores between different collections. Female respondents scored more highly than males for both ZA and PA. Multiple regression revealed that location, gender, and time spent with animals were significant predictors for ZA, while only gender and taxon were significant predictors for PA. It was concluded that PA scores were comparable with those for the general public, and reflected strong attachment of keepers to their pets, while ZA scores, although also reflecting attachment, were influenced by differences in institutional culture. [Abstract copyright: © 2021 Wiley Periodicals LLC.]
    • Zoo-housed mammals do not avoid giving birth on weekends

      Hosey, Geoff; Ward, Samantha J; Ferguson, Amanda; Jenkins, Hannah; Hill, Sonya P; University of Bolton; Nottingham Trent University; ZSL London Zoo; North of England Zoological Society; University of Chester
      There is evidence that zoo visitor presence can influence the behavior and, in some cases, adrenal response of zoo animals, and can sometimes compromise animal welfare. In some laboratory studies, significantly more primate births have been reported on weekends, when fewer people are working there, compared with weekdays when staffing levels are at their highest. Here we investigate whether there is evidence of a “weekend effect” on births in zoo animals as a result of visitor numbers. Unlike laboratories, zoos are typically busier with visitors on weekends than on weekdays, although staffing levels remain fairly consistent across days of the week. If zoo animal parturition is sensitive to human presence, then fewer births would be expected on weekends compared with weekdays. We tested this using birth data and visitor numbers on the entrance gate from zoo records across 16 species representing artiodactyls, perissodactyls, carnivores and primates at four British zoos, to see whether there is an association between mean daily birth rates and average visitor numbers. We predict that, if there is a visitor effect, daily births should be lower on weekends than weekdays and should correlate with mean daily visitor numbers. Results showed that births for all 16 species were randomly distributed through the week, and there was no significant decline in births on weekends. We conclude that the ‘weekend effect’, if such a thing exists, does not appear to be a feature of zoo births, suggesting that elevated weekend visitor numbers are not sufficiently stressful to trigger delayed parturition.