Postoccupancy evaluation of staff, visitors, and three species of animals in a zoo setting

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Year of Publication:
Rebecca J Snyder, Lisa P Barrett
Zoo Biology
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Postoccupancy evaluation (POE) was used to assess newly constructed zoo exhibits from the perspective of three user groups: zoo staff, zoo visitors, and the animals. Staff represents a generally understudied user group in zoo-based POEs. We asked staff to rate the animals’ space, the visitors’ space, and the staff’s space at previous and new exhibits. We also compared zoo visitors’ ratings of the animals’ behavior and environments, overall exhibit impressions, and the time visitors spent viewing previous and new exhibits. Lastly, we compared activity and space use of a Komodo dragon (Varanus komodoensis), two red pandas (Ailurus fulgens), and one rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis) in their previous and new exhibits. Staff rated animal, visitor, and staff areas higher at the new exhibits compared to the previous exhibits. Visitors also rated several factors higher and spent more time at the new exhibits. The most naturalistic exhibit received the most favorable ratings in all categories and animal activity increased visitor stay time. We found that red pandas were less active in their new exhibit, and the Komodo dragon and rhino showed no difference in activity. The red pandas and the Komodo dragon used more available space in their new exhibits; however, we recommend using Electivity index to examine resource preferences for these species, whose enclosure use has been less studied than large mammals. We emphasize the importance of including staff in zoo-based POE, make other recommendations for future POE studies, and discuss various factors that could have influenced our results.


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