Abstract # 5923 Event # 202:

Scheduled for Monday, September 15, 2014 02:45 PM-03:00 PM: Session 27 (Mary Gay) Oral Presentation


VISITOR PERCEPTIONS OF INTERACTIVE EXPERIENCES WITH BONOBOS (<I>PAN PANISCUS</I>) AT THE SAN DIEGO ZOO

E. M. Carver
San Diego State University, Department of Anthropology, San Diego, CA 92182-6040, USA
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     This research combines traditional methods from primatology with ethnographic tools to explore visitor-bonobo interaction from both sides of the glass at a zoo exhibit, contributing to the growing synthesis between primatology and cultural anthropology. Randomly selected visitors (N=367) and bonobos (N=13) were continuously monitored for the formation of interactive dyads, and interactive behaviors (e.g., eye contact, vocalizing, gesturing) were recorded based on two ethograms (human and bonobo). Upon leaving the exhibit, visitors were asked to complete a questionnaire or participate in a brief informal interview addressing their experiences with the bonobos. By allowing visitors to report their firsthand perceptions of events I viewed as an outside observer, two perspectives on the same events could be compared. 13.1% of visitors (N=48) were observed in interactions and also confirmed their involvement in interactions via questionnaire. I observed interactive behavior from 5.2% of visitors (N=19) who reported they were not involved in interactions, and an additional 20.7% of visitors (N=76) reported involvement in interactions that fell outside of ethogram categories. Furthermore, I recorded bonobos initiating interaction in 18.9% of cases, while visitors reported bonobo initiation in 33.9% of cases. Overall, visitors’ perceptions of what events constitute interaction were broader and more complex than expected. These results illustrate how the incorporation of ethnographic methods has the potential to enrich research on human-primate interaction in a zoo setting.