A comparison of staff presence and signage on zoo visitor behavior

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Year of Publication:
Claudia Tay, Todd J. McWhorter, Shangzhe Xie, Tiara Sophia Binte Mohd Nasir, Borja Reh, Eduardo J. Fernandez
Zoo Biology
John Wiley & Sons, Ltd
, ,

Abstract Many zoos favor the use of signage to encourage learning and positive visitor experiences as well as discourage negative behaviors by visitors because of its simplicity, relatively low maintenance needed, and low cost. However, current literature suggests that conventional signage has limited impact on visitors in zoos. This study hypothesized that visitors would be less likely to exhibit negative behaviors (e.g., feeding and touching) in the presence of uniformed staff compared to signage. The study was conducted twice a day over 4 weeks with one condition per week (Baseline, Signage, Staff, and Signage?+?Staff). The total number of visitors and the frequency of negative visitor behaviors were observed. These behaviors reduced from 14.0% (Baseline; no signage and no staff) and 13.1% (Signage), to 4.8% (Staff) and 6.1% (Signage?+?Staff). Both the Staff and Signage?+?Staff conditions were significantly lower than the Baseline and Signage conditions. However, signage alone did not significantly differ from the baseline condition, when no intervention was implemented, and staff and signage together did not significantly differ from staff alone. This was also observed in both negative visual behaviors and negative tactile behaviors from visitors. The results suggest that methods other than signage may be more effective at reducing undesired visitor behaviors. This study could guide the design of future signage or even potentially encourage zoos to reduce reliance on signs and employ other strategies.


Back to Resources