Abstract # 86:

Scheduled for Thursday, June 18, 2015 06:00 PM-08:00 PM: (Cascade AJBCD) Poster Presentation


IMPACT OF NATURALISTIC VS ARTIFICIAL ENRICHMENT DEVICES ON VISITOR PERCEPTION OF A ZOO-HOUSED GROUP OF CHIMPANZEES (PAN TROGLODYTES)

J. McNernie, J. S. Widness, M. A. Shender, M. L. Leahy and S. R. Ross
Lincoln Park Zoo, 2001 North Clark St, Chicago, IL 60614, USA
line
     The trend in modern zoo exhibit design is to promote a naturalistic appearance in order to facilitate education about the wild counterparts of these animals and their environment, promote positive perceptions of the animals, and encourage species-typical behaviors. Though there is some evidence of the positive effects of naturalistic environments, less is known about how naturalistic enrichment within these environments might affect visitor perceptions. In this study, we provided a group of zoo-housed chimpanzees living in a naturalistic indoor-outdoor exhibit with several enrichment devices that varied in their degree of naturalism. While the enrichment was present in the exhibit, we surveyed zoo visitors (n=150) about their perceptions of the exhibit and the animals. We found that although visitors emphasized the importance of a naturalistic exhibit, their perception of the animal’s emotional state or the environment’s ability to replicate the animal’s natural environment was not affected by the naturalism of the enrichment present in the exhibit at the time of the survey (F(36,367)=0.931, p=0.586). Though naturalistic environments have been shown to have positive outcomes for animal behavior and visitor attitudes, these findings indicate that non-naturalistic enrichment seems to have negligible effect on how zoo visitors perceive these environments or the animals inhabiting them. As a result, managers may have greater flexibility when selecting enrichment options without the restrictions of having them appear natural.