Do zoo animals use off‐exhibit areas to avoid noise? A case study exploring the influence of sound on the behavior, physiology, and space use of two pied tamarins (Saguinus bicolor)

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Year of Publication:
Jason D Wark, Mandi W Schook, Patricia M Dennis, Kristen E Lukas
American Journal of Primatology
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Noise can be a known stressor but our understanding of its effects on animals living in zoo environments remains limited. Although exposure to loud, chronic noise may be expected to negatively impact welfare, providing access to quiet areas to escape loud noise may buffer these negative effects. In this study, we explored the benefits of access to quiet, off-exhibit areas for animals living in a chronically loud sound environment. Two pied tamarins (Saguinus bicolor) living near a large waterfall feature that emitted loud, chronic noise were experimentally exposed to varying sound levels during 2-week treatment conditions. Baseline conditions (waterfall feature on and access to quiet, off-exhibit areas), were followed by a Quiet sound condition (waterfall off), a Loud sound condition (waterfall on and a speaker in the off-exhibit area playing volume-matched white noise), and a final Baseline condition. During Baseline conditions, sound levels were greater than 10 dBA higher in the exhibit than in the off-exhibit area (i.e., roughly twice as loud). The number of visitor groups present during behavior observations were consistent throughout the study. Both tamarins modified their space use during treatment conditions. Under Baseline conditions, both individuals showed frequent usage of quiet, off-exhibit areas. During the Quiet and Loud conditions, where sound levels were generally consistent across spaces, both individuals used off-exhibit areas less and their use of exhibit and off-exhibit areas was not significantly different than would be expected by chance, given the size of the areas. Additional behavioral changes were minimal. No significant differences in fecal glucocorticoid metabolites were observed. Although the monkeys in this study appeared to avoid noise, the overall impact on welfare appeared to be minimal considering the limited behavioral and hormonal changes observed. This study highlights the potential benefits of off-exhibit spaces as a quiet refuge from noise in the zoo environment.


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