Behavioural effects of a giraffe public feeding programme on Masai giraffe Giraffa tippelskirchi and plains zebra Equus quagga in a mixed-species exhibit
Keywords:animal-visitor interaction, Equus quagga, Giraffa tippelskirchi, zoo, zoo animal welfare
Animal-visitor interactions are widely available in zoos and aquariums, yet the effects of these programmes on the welfare of the animals involved have only recently begun to be studied. The impact of one type of animal-visitor interaction, public hand feeding experiences, on the welfare of the participating Masai giraffe Giraffa tippelskirchi and the plains zebra Equus quagga co-housed with them was investigated, via behavioural observations before the public feeding season began and during the feeding season. A less time-intensive behavioural sampling method was used that allowed on-duty zookeepers to collect all the data. There were no negative behavioural effects of the public feeding experiences on the giraffe or zebra, including no effects of numbers of guests on rates of stereotypic behaviour and no increase in stereotypic behaviour over time. Rates of stereotypic behaviour were similar to those found previously using more time-intensive behavioural sampling methods. There were individual differences in rates of stereotypic behaviour in giraffe and differences in non-stereotypic behaviour between study phases in both species, which warrant further investigation. This study, for the first time, provides data on the behavioural effects of a public feeding programme on non-participating animals in a mixed-species exhibit, and further demonstrates a method of behavioural sampling that can be incorporated into the daily routine of zookeepers.
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