Veterinary and Agricultural Sciences Collected Works - Theses

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    Human-animal interaction in the modern zoo: Live animal encounter programs and associated effects on animal welfare.
    Acaralp-Rehnberg, Lydia Karolina ( 2019)
    Abstract Live animal encounter programs are an increasingly popular occurrence in the modern zoo. The welfare implications of animals participating in these programs has not been studied extensively to date. The aim of the current thesis was, therefore, to explore animal welfare effects associated with encounter programs in selected zoo-housed species, using a combined approach of survey data and empirical investigations. The survey assessment, which involved over 500 accredited zoos and aquariums in Australia and overseas, revealed that most surveyed institutions (85 %) engaged in an encounter program with one or more species, most of which were mammals. Behaviours indicative of a typical fight-or-flight response were the most commonly reported welfare concerns in relation to encounters. Behaviour indicative of positive welfare, as well as voluntary participation and interaction with visitors, were commonly mentioned in regard to positive welfare during encounters. Positive welfare experiences outweighed the number of reported concerns in birds and mammals, but the opposite was true for reptiles. The empirical studies involved zoo-housed servals, giraffes and shingleback lizards, and sought to identify a potential cause-effect relationship between behavioural and physiological welfare indices and short-term variations in encounter frequency. A similar methodology involving a repeated treatment design where the frequency of encounters was manipulated to reflect the regular frequency of encounters, a temporary withdrawal, and a temporary intensification of regime, was adopted across the three studies. Behavioural changes indicative of a positive welfare effect when participating in encounters were observed in the servals and giraffes. Servals exhibited a significant reduction in stereotypic pacing on weeks when participating in interactive presentations, or presentations and behind-the-scenes encounters combined. The giraffes engaged in amicable social interactions significantly more often when participating in visitor feeding encounters, at either regular or intensified frequency. By contrast, a potentially aversive effect of encounters was observed in the shinglebacks, who significantly increased their use of concealed locations within the enclosure when handled at either the regular or intensified frequency. Approach behaviour during encounters differed significantly between individual giraffes, and significant differences in coiling behaviour while handled was observed in the lizards. The findings of the empirical studies were in agreement with the survey data, which identified taxonomic as well as individual variation as important influences on the welfare of animals participating in encounters. The nature of the encounter the animals participate in was identified as another key factor, in which encounters that maximise choice and control, and where animals are rewarded for participation, were likely to contribute to a more positive welfare experience.