Visitor presence and a changing soundscape, alongside environmental parameters, can predict enclosure usage in captive flamingos

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Year of Publication:
Paul Rose, Alexander Badman‐King, Samantha Hurn, Tom Rice
Zoo Biology
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The sound environment of a zoo animal is a complex milieu of animal and human‐generated sounds; coming from the species itself, other species, visitors, keepers and other zoo‐users. Research determining how different components of the sound environment affect animal behaviour is surprisingly lacking but could have real‐world impacts for animal welfare and zoo enclosure design. The current study investigated the effects of the sound environment on two flocks of flamingos housed in open‐air enclosures at British zoos. Measures of how each flock used its enclosure (as a response variable) and environmental variables (Inband Power and Peak Frequency were recorded as characteristics of the sound environment, as well as temperature, humidity and cloud cover, and finally visitor presence—all as potential predictor variables) were made over a 2‐month period. Assessment of space use by zoo animals is often used as a measure of the appropriateness of an exhibit and to understand welfare. Given that flamingo activity is influenced by weather and that the sound environment of the zoo is likely to be influenced by the number and the presence of visitors, it was assumed that these predictor variables would influence where the flamingos were located at different times of the day. As expected, there was a complicated relationship between enclosure use and Inband Power (average spectral density, a measure of sound energy) in both flocks; visitors generated salient sound but other visitor characteristics such as their physical presence may have impacted the movement of the birds around their enclosures. Results show a complex picture where environmental conditions influence flamingo enclosure usage as well as visitor presence and sounds around/in the enclosure. Findings are not consistent between the two flocks, with one flock demonstrating distinct temporal change to enclosure zone occupancy and the other responsive to humidity and cloud cover variation. We believe enclosure use can provide a valuable indication of how birds react to their soundscape; however, our findings suggest more work is needed to unpick the components of captive sound environments, and their relative effects on how animals use their space.


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