Do zoo‐housed primates retreat from crowds? A simple study of five primate species

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Year of Publication:
Alexandria Cairo‐Evans, Natasha K Wierzal, Jason D Wark, Katherine A Cronin
American Journal of Primatology
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An animal’s welfare state is directly influenced by the mental state, which is shaped by experiences within the environment throughout the animal’s life. For zoo-housed animals, visitors to the zoo are a large part of that environment and a fluctuating influence within it. This study examines the impact of zoo visitors on the space use of five species of zoo-housed primates (Eastern black-and-white colobus monkeys, Colobus guereza, n = 5, Allen’s swamp monkeys, Allenopithecus nigroviridis, n = 2, DeBrazza’s monkeys, Cercopithecus neglectus, n = 3, Bolivian gray titi monkeys, Callicebus donacophilus, n = 3, and crowned lemurs, Eulemur coronatus, n = 3). Specifically, we considered whether primates’ distance from visitor areas changed as crowd sizes increased. Data were collected using the ZooMonitor app. Observers recorded spatial coordinates for each animal over periods ranging from 12 to 32 months. Data were analyzed using two types of regression models (linear and logistic) to examine the influence of visitors on the location of the primates. Both analyses revealed a statistically significant but small decrease in primate distance from visitor viewing glass as the number of visitors increased. Behavioral indicators of welfare were also unaffected by the presence of visitors. These results suggest that, with additional validation, distance from visitors may be one promising, simple way to evaluate the influence of visitors on primate welfare.


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