Abstract # 130:

Scheduled for Friday, June 19, 2015 11:00 AM-11:15 AM: (Cascade E) Oral Presentation


VISITOR EFFECTS ON THE BEHAVIOR OF AND EXHIBIT USE BY CHIMPANZEES AND GORILLAS AT LINCOLN PARK ZOO

K. E. Bonnie1,2, M. Y. Ang2 and S. R. Ross2
1Beloit College, Dept of Psychology, Beloit, WI 53511, USA, 2Lester Fisher Center for Study and Conservation of Apes, Lincoln Park Zoo
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     Several factors, including facility design and group composition, are known to affect the overall well-being of captive apes. Previous studies have also recognized the influence of human presence and interaction on the behavior and welfare of these animals. But while the effects of crowd size/density have been studied in many zoo-housed animals, including gorillas (Gorilla gorilla) and chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes), the degree to which visitors affect these apes remains open to investigation. We aimed to determine how chimpanzees (n=6) and Western lowland gorillas (n=5) housed in the Regenstein Center for African Apes at Lincoln Park Zoo responded to crowds of various sizes. The dataset, gathered over 12 consecutive months, included both behavioral data, collected via focal animal follows, and space use data, collected via whole group scans. The number of visitors near each exhibit was recorded at the start of each observation session. Crowd size had no effect on the frequency of any behavior analyzed, including locomotion, feeding, grooming, and self-directed behaviors. Likewise, as crowd size increased neither chimpanzees nor gorillas were observed to alter their use of the areas of their exhibit within close proximity (1 meter) of the public floor. These findings suggest that modern, well-designed zoo exhibits can be effective in removing the potentially negative effects of large crowds described elsewhere.