Using Qualitative Behaviour Assessment to Investigate Human-Animal Relationships in Zoo-Housed Giraffes (Giraffa camelopardalis)

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Year of Publication:
Freisha Patel, Francoise Wemelsfelder, Samantha J. Ward
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Human-Animal Relationships (HAR) in zoos develop from repeated interactions between
animals and their caretakers. HAR have been shown to affect health and welfare in farm animals,
but limited zoo-based studies exist. This study investigates the association between the qualitative
behaviour assessment (QBA) of emotional expression in giraffes and keeper action score in four
types of keeper-animal interaction (KAI). Three giraffes generating 38 clips. QBA, using a free-choice
profiling methodology, was applied instructing 18 observers to assess giraffe expressions shown
in these clips. QBA scores were analysed using Generalized Procrustes Analysis. Keeper actions
during each KAI event were rated by an independent marker, resulting in cumulative scores for
keeper action quality. The association between QBA and the keeper action was analyzed using
Spearman’s rank correlations. Two main QBA dimensions were identified explaining 59% of the
variation between clips. There were significant effects of giraffe and KAI type on QBA dimension 2
(inquisitive/impatient—calm/distracted), and significant positive associations between keeper action
quality rating and QBA dimensions 1 and 2, indicating that positive keeper actions resulted in calm
and confident giraffes with a willingness to interact. This is the first successful application of QBA for
empirically addressing HARs in zoos, however given the small sample size of giraffes in this study, it
can be regarded as a pilot study only, and further research is needed to validate the use of QBA in
this context.


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