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Article

Does an Animal–Visitor Interactive Experience Drive Conservation Action?

1
School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences and the Environmental Research Institute, University College Cork, T23 N73K Cork, Ireland
2
Carrigtwohill, Co., Fota Wildlife Park, T45 CD93 Cork, Ireland
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Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editors: Michel Saint-Jalme and Sarah Spooner
J. Zool. Bot. Gard. 2021, 2(3), 473-486; https://doi.org/10.3390/jzbg2030034
Received: 14 July 2021 / Revised: 31 August 2021 / Accepted: 3 September 2021 / Published: 7 September 2021
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Zoos as a Tool for Re-Connecting People with Nature)
Inspiring visitors to engage in conservation-related behaviour following a zoo visit is a primary objective for most zoos. Animal–visitor interactive (AVI) experiences are often central to this goal. Yet, these interactive experiences are insufficiently evaluated from both the visitors’ and captive animals’ perspectives. The current study took place at Fota Wildlife Park and involved the construction of an environmental enrichment device during an interactive visitor experience with Sumatran tigers (Panthera tigris sumatrae). It aimed to simultaneously encourage pro-conservation behaviour in visitors and promote animal welfare. Visitors (n = 51) completed a survey, observed the tigers’ behaviour and made a pledge to help tigers in the wild after completion of the AVI. Tiger behaviour was simultaneously observed by a trained researcher using occurrence or non-occurrence sampling, which found no indication that tiger welfare was compromised during the activity and was likely enhanced by engaging with the enrichment. Additionally, visitors observed a range of tigers’ behaviours. The results indicated that some visitors (8%) had continued with their pledge six weeks after the experience, and most visitors exhibited a high level of knowledge and a positive attitude towards tigers. The use of enrichment during AVIs may be a positive link between the visitor experience and animal welfare. These results can be used to guide AVIs in zoos which aim to connect people with nature and drive pro-conservation behaviour in visitors. View Full-Text
Keywords: conservation; environmental education; zoo; animal behaviour; visitor experience; interactive experience; behaviour change; Sumatran tiger; enrichment conservation; environmental education; zoo; animal behaviour; visitor experience; interactive experience; behaviour change; Sumatran tiger; enrichment
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MDPI and ACS Style

Collins, C.K.; McKeown, S.; O’Riordan, R. Does an Animal–Visitor Interactive Experience Drive Conservation Action? J. Zool. Bot. Gard. 2021, 2, 473-486. https://doi.org/10.3390/jzbg2030034

AMA Style

Collins CK, McKeown S, O’Riordan R. Does an Animal–Visitor Interactive Experience Drive Conservation Action? Journal of Zoological and Botanical Gardens. 2021; 2(3):473-486. https://doi.org/10.3390/jzbg2030034

Chicago/Turabian Style

Collins, Courtney K., Sean McKeown, and Ruth O’Riordan. 2021. "Does an Animal–Visitor Interactive Experience Drive Conservation Action?" Journal of Zoological and Botanical Gardens 2, no. 3: 473-486. https://doi.org/10.3390/jzbg2030034

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