The influence of zoo visitor numbers on the behaviour of harbour seals (Phoca vitulina)
We investigated the influence of zoo visitor numbers on the behaviour of a group of eight harbour seals at Antwerp Zoo. The behaviour of the seals was monitored using instantaneous scan sampling. Visitor presence at the enclosure was also monitored instantaneously. Additionally, daily visitor numbers for the zoo were gathered. We related seal behaviour to both the number of visitors present during the instantaneous sampling and to the daily visitor attendance. Both analyses showed that under increasing visitor numbers, more seals submerged under water. While behavioural changes are clear and it appears the seals were hiding from increasing visitor numbers by diving under water, it remains hard to assess whether visitors compromise the welfare of seals in captivity
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