Behavioral Assessment of Six Reptile Species during a Temporary Zoo Closure and Reopening

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Year of Publication:
Jennifer Hamilton, Kylen N. Gartland, Megan Jones, Grace Fuller
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Although reptiles are commonly housed in zoos and aquariums, their welfare is understudied for the diversity of species housed and the taxon’s current captive population size. The sensory abilities of reptiles have adapted to the varied ecological niches they inhabit, and these evolutionary adaptations impact how reptiles perceive the stimuli around them—including zoo visitors. This study aimed to assess visitor effects on small groups of six reptile species during a temporary zoo closure due to COVID-19 by measuring behavioral diversity, use of space (measured by a spread of participation index), and select behaviors. The species assessed showed diverse responses. The Catalina Island rattlesnakes (Crotalus catalinensis) demonstrated increased investigation and behavioral diversity after the zoo reopened compared to when the zoo was closed, but the European glass lizards (Pseudopus apodus) showed decreases in the amount of time spent exposed to the observers’ view and in their evenness of space use after the zoo was reopened to visitors. The other species, including beaded lizards (Heloderma horridum), Sonoran spiny-tailed iguana (Ctenosaura macrolopha), Arrau turtles (Podocnemis expansa), and dwarf caimans (Paleosuchus palpebrosus), had intermediate changes in their responses to visitor presence.


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