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Open AccessArticle

A Global Review of Animal–Visitor Interactions in Modern Zoos and Aquariums and Their Implications for Wild Animal Welfare

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World Animal Protection, 222 Gray’s Inn Rd., London WC1X 8HB, UK
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School of Science and Environment, Manchester Metropolitan University, All Saints Building, All Saints, Manchester M15 6BH, UK
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Wild Welfare, 63 Queenswood Road, London SE23 2QR, UK
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Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Animals 2019, 9(6), 332; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9060332
Received: 22 April 2019 / Revised: 3 June 2019 / Accepted: 4 June 2019 / Published: 8 June 2019
(This article belongs to the Section Animal Welfare)
This study explores the characteristics of animal-visitor Interactions (AVIs) (interactions between people and captive wild animals) in zoos and aquaria across the globe. We reviewed information provided on public websites of institutions that are either direct members of the World Association for Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) or belong to regional and national associations that have WAZA membership. The opportunity for visitors to interact with wild animals was promoted on the majority of the facilities’ websites. Petting captive wild animals was the most common AVI activity advertised (43%) of facilities, and interaction with mammals was the most advertised taxonomic class (53%). Some activities involving direct contact with wildlife were promoted more commonly than expected (for example, hand feed and ride wild animals, and walk with or swim through wild animal enclosures). Some of the advertised AVIs have the potential to impact animal welfare; in light of this, we provide recommendations to balance and manage captive wild animal welfare in AVIs with other primary interconnected goals.
We provide an initial insight into the occurrence and characteristics of animal-visitor interactions (AVIs) involving captive wild animals within zoos and aquaria. Using information provided online via official public websites of modern zoos and aquaria, we found that AVIs were provided by the majority of facilities. Our study revealed that a variety of AVI types were being offered. Globally, petting captive wild animals was the most prevalent AVI type advertised (n = 1241 observations, 43% (534) of facilities) and Mammalia was the most advertised taxonomic class (n = 5142; 53% (2739)). We found certain AVI types that were more commonly offered than predicted. These were opportunities to: (1) Hand feed captive wild animals in Asia, North America and Oceania; (2) ride wild animals in Europe and North America; (3) walk with or swim through wild animal enclosures in Asia; and (4) walk with wild animals in Asia and Europe. Given the global prevalence of AVIs in modern zoos and aquaria, and an apparent lack of animal welfare focused research, we provide recommendations to help effectively balance and manage captive wild animal welfare with other primary interconnected goals. View Full-Text
Keywords: conservation; education; tourism; wildlife; Word Association for Zoo and Aquariums conservation; education; tourism; wildlife; Word Association for Zoo and Aquariums
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D’Cruze, N.; Khan, S.; Carder, G.; Megson, D.; Coulthard, E.; Norrey, J.; Groves, G. A Global Review of Animal–Visitor Interactions in Modern Zoos and Aquariums and Their Implications for Wild Animal Welfare. Animals 2019, 9, 332.

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  • Supplementary File 1:

    ZIP-Document (ZIP, 421 KB)

  • Externally hosted supplementary file 1
    Link: http://Supplementary material 1
    Description: Supplementary Material File S1: Facilities included in the website review Supplementary Material Figure S1:. Percentage advertised AVI’s split by species order. Orders left of the red dashed line were higher in frequency than expected given an even distribution. Supplementary Material Table S1: Percentage advertised AVI’s per species order split by AVI type.
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