Abstract # 169:

Scheduled for Saturday, June 23, 2007 09:45 AM-10:00 AM: Session 15 (North Main Hall E) Oral Presentation

Is it Crowded in Here or Is it just Me? Impacts of Large Crowds on Captive Gorilla Behavior (Gorilla gorilla gorilla)

C. Kuhar
Disney's Animal Kingdom, Lake Buena Vista, FL, USA
     Research on the impact of crowd sizes on zoo animal behavior is hampered by the attraction confound. Are animals more aggressive because of large crowds or does aggression in animals attract large crowds? One way this confound can be overcome is by using daily attendance figures as a measure of crowd size. Ten western lowland gorillas in two groups (bachelor and family) were observed during Large and Small Crowd days over a period of eight weeks with observations standardized for time of day. Behavior patterns were assessed using a repeated measures ANOVA with crowd size as the within-subjects variable and group as the between-subjects variable [a=0.05]. Few overall differences were found in behavior during the Large Crowd and Small Crowd conditions. Overall, gorillas were significantly less visible during the Large Crowd condition. There was also a significant interaction of crowd size and group, indicating the bachelor group of gorillas, but not the family group, was more aggressive during the Large Crowd condition. These results indicate the importance of providing complex enclosures with visual barriers to allow animals to move away from large crowds if they choose. They also indicate that individual differences should be considered in analysis of research on visitor effects. Finally, in institutions where attendance varies within a season, daily attendance figures can be an appropriate method for controlling the attraction confound in visitor crowd research.