A multi-enclosure study investigating the behavioural response of meerkats to zoo visitors

Sherwen, Sally L., Magrath, Michael J. L., Butler, Kym L., Phillips, Clive J. C. and Hemsworth, Paul H. (2014) A multi-enclosure study investigating the behavioural response of meerkats to zoo visitors. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 156 70-77. doi:10.1016/j.applanim.2014.04.012

Author Sherwen, Sally L.
Magrath, Michael J. L.
Butler, Kym L.
Phillips, Clive J. C.
Hemsworth, Paul H.
Title A multi-enclosure study investigating the behavioural response of meerkats to zoo visitors
Journal name Applied Animal Behaviour Science   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 0168-1591
Publication date 2014-07-01
Year available 2014
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1016/j.applanim.2014.04.012
Open Access Status
Volume 156
Start page 70
End page 77
Total pages 8
Place of publication Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Publisher Elsevier
Language eng
Subject 3403 Food Animals
1103 Animal Science and Zoology
Abstract The scientific literature indicates that visitors may affect both the behaviour and welfare of zoo animals. Captive born slender-tailed meerkats, Suricata suricatta, at three exhibits were studied under two treatments (1) unregulated visitor behaviour and (2) regulated visitor behaviour, where signage was positioned requesting visitors to be quiet and not to interact with the animals. At each exhibit, treatments were imposed using a four-replicate paired comparison design, with each pair consisting of 2 consecutive days of different treatments. Meerkat behaviour and location were recorded using instantaneous sampling every 2. min over a total of 72. h across exhibits. The efficacy of the regulated treatment in moderating visitor behaviour was evaluated by recording visitor noise using a decibel logger and by assessing the intensity of visitor behaviour (scale of 0-2 from passively observing to actively attempting to gain the animals' attention) every 2. min during each observation period. The regulated treatment was successful in reducing visitor noise at each exhibit by around 32% (from 55 to 51. dBA, P= 0.0001). Furthermore, while there was a significant interaction of exhibit with treatment (P= 0.013), the regulated treatment reduced the score of intensity of visitor behaviour at each exhibit. However, despite good experimental precision, the regulated treatment did not change the distance meerkats positioned themselves from visitors (regulated 2.9. m and unregulated 3.1. m, P= 0.2) or the proportion of time they engaged in vigilant behaviour (regulated 0.34 and unregulated 0.32, P= 0.6) or the proportion of time spent looking towards visitors (regulated 0.42 and unregulated 0.46, P= 0.4), indicating that the meerkats at the three study exhibits were behaviourally unresponsive to variation in the intensity of visitor behaviour.
Keyword Animal welfare
Human animal interactions
Visitor behaviour
Zoo visitors
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Confirmed Code
Institutional Status UQ

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
Collections: Official 2015 Collection
School of Veterinary Science Publications
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Citation counts: TR Web of Science Citation Count  Cited 6 times in Thomson Reuters Web of Science Article | Citations
Scopus Citation Count Cited 7 times in Scopus Article | Citations
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Created: Tue, 17 Jun 2014, 14:40:49 EST by System User on behalf of Centre for Animal Welfare and Ethics