Exploring the Effect of the COVID-19 Zoo Closure Period on Flamingo Behaviour and Enclosure Use at Two Institutions

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Year of Publication:
Peter Kidd, Steph Ford, Paul E Rose
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Visitors can influence the behaviour of zoo animals through their auditory and visual presence, with mixed findings of negative, neutral, and positive effects on welfare. This study opportunistically utilised the UK-wide COVID-19 period of zoo closure to investigate the activity and enclosure usage of Greater (Phoenicopterus roseus) and Chilean (P. chilensis) Flamingos housed at two zoos. Flamingo behaviour at both sites was observed during the last week of a three-month closure period and the immediate reopening of the zoos. Photographic data were collected at three timepoints during each observation day. Negative binomial GLMMs compared the behaviour observed during zoo closure to the behaviour observed during zoo reopening, whilst accounting for climatic variables and time of day. Spearman’s correlation identified relationships between behaviour with the number of visitors and weather. Greater Flamingos were not influenced by the reintroduction of visitors to the zoo setting. Chilean Flamingos showed an increase in inactivity and decrease in movement and feeding when the zoo reopened. These possible behavioural responses are better explained by the influence of temperature on the behaviour of Chilean Flamingos and by the correlation between temperature and visitor number, rather than a direct consequence of visitor presence. This research details the multifactorial nature of any potential anthropogenic effects on zoo animal behaviour and highlights the importance of considering environmental variables alongside the measurement of visitor presence or absence.


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