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Animals 2018, 8(9), 153;

Assessing Animal Welfare in Animal-Visitor Interactions in Zoos and Other Facilities. A Pilot Study Involving Giraffes

Department of Comparative Biomedicine and Food Science, Università degli Studi di Padova, Viale dell’Università 16, Agripolis, 35020 Legnaro, Italy
Department of Veterinary Science, Università degli Studi di Torino, Largo Paolo Braccini 2, 10095 Grugliasco, Italy
Department of Veterinary Medical Sciences, Alma Mater Studiorum Università di Bologna, Via Tolara di Sopra 50, 40126 Bologna, Italy
Zoom Turin, Strada Piscina 36, 10040 Cumiana, Italy
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 8 July 2018 / Revised: 23 August 2018 / Accepted: 27 August 2018 / Published: 30 August 2018
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Zoo Animal Welfare)
Full-Text   |   PDF [987 KB, uploaded 30 August 2018]   |  

Simple Summary

A pilot test of a six-step protocol to evaluate animal-visitor interactions was developed on a “giraffe feeding” program in a zoo. The steps devoted to animal welfare’s assessment are presented in this paper. We observed the giraffes’ behaviour, evaluated the suitability of the area in which the interactions took place, and assessed the intensity of various hazards for animal welfare. The long-term goal of this research project is to test a protocol for the overall evaluation of the quality of animal-visitor interactions in zoos and other facilities. Giraffes could choose whether to participate or not to the feeding interactions with visitors, and did not show any behaviour that suggested they did find the interaction to be a negative experience, so their welfare level was assessed as not to be adversely affected by the interaction with the visitors.


In recent years, awareness of the controversial aspects connected with wild animal-visitor interactions (AVIs) in zoos and other facilities has increased due to cultural changes. Therefore, the need to apply transparent procedures to evaluate AVIs programs in zoos and similar facilities has also increased. This study presents results of animal welfare’s assessment of a pilot test of a protocol based on six steps that aim to explore and assess the overall value of AVIs considering the impact both on animals and visitors. In the present paper, we discuss the multifaceted approach to animal welfare assessment during animal-visitor interactions, combining quantitative behavioural observations/analysis and a welfare risk-assessment procedure, which forms the basis of the six-step protocol. Pilot testing of said approach to animal welfare assessment involved giraffes (Giraffa camelopardalis) in an Italian zoo. No change in behaviour, suggestive of an increased welfare risk to the animals, was found. The risk analysis reported overall low risks for welfare, whereas enclosure analysis highlighted that the enclosure was suitable for allowing interactions without jeopardising animal welfare, mainly because it allowed animals to choose whether to interact or withdraw from interactions without decreasing the space available to them. View Full-Text
Keywords: giraffe; welfare; animal-visitor interaction; risk assessment; zoo giraffe; welfare; animal-visitor interaction; risk assessment; zoo

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Normando, S.; Pollastri, I.; Florio, D.; Ferrante, L.; Macchi, E.; Isaja, V.; de Mori, B. Assessing Animal Welfare in Animal-Visitor Interactions in Zoos and Other Facilities. A Pilot Study Involving Giraffes. Animals 2018, 8, 153.

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