Some Animals Like Being Visited at the Zoo and Some Don’t – Do You Know Which Ones?

A visit to the zoo gives us an opportunity to see animals that we may never see in the wild. We might enjoy seeing all of the animals, but a study shows us that there are a limited number that enjoy seeing us.

Researchers from Bolton University, Harper Adams University, and Nottingham Trent University took a closer look at over 250 different species of animals to see how they reacted when humans were nearby.

Photos: Pixabay / davidosta

None of the animals in the study were primates, but they were made up of 56% mammals, 28% birds, and the rest were fish, amphibians, reptiles, and invertebrates.

Taking A Closer Look At The Numbers

Most of the animals in the study were somewhat neutral when it came to responding to the humans nearby. In up to 38% of the observed cases, however, reactions were seen as either negative or positive.

This data was carefully studied by animal behaviorists, who wanted to see how nearby humans affected animals moving, feeding, socializing, and resting. They would either give their observations a positive or negative classification.

Photos: Pixabay / Alexas_Fotos

As an example, if the animal seemed to be bored and was pacing, it would be considered negative. Animal behaviorists were used because they could recognize whether it was a negative or positive change.

Physical changes were also measured, including heart rate, breathing, and even body weight changes. This gave them a clear picture of which animals enjoy seeing us nearby.

When it comes to positive reactions, elephants were at the lead of the list. When they were fed in view of humans, they displayed more social activity. They would also forage more frequently when humans were around.

One of the leads on the study, Leith Meyer, spoke with Africa Check about how humans and elephants interact at the zoo.

Elephants Are So Smart

When it comes to intelligence, elephants are among the top at the zoo. Without people around, they wouldn’t have food in captivity, so it didn’t take long for them to put the two together.

They also have limited negative interactions with humans because of the physical separation that exists.

Birds in the parrot family also seemed to do quite well with humans nearby. When cockatoos had people visiting, they tended to be more social.

Other animals that showed positive reactions when humans were around included cheetahs, jaguars, penguins, grizzly bears, polar bears, black-tailed prairie dogs, servals, and bantengs.

Photos: Pixabay / Alexas_Fotos

Although things seemed to be very positive when it came to being around these animals, there was limited data available for the study, so they had to extrapolate some of the data.

There may also be differences, depending upon how they are cared for, what type of enclosure they are in, and even the individual personality of the animal.

Not All Animals Were Positive

Some of the animals that responded negatively to humans include hedgehogs, flightless birds, marsupials, antelopes, ostriches, giraffes, and a type of reptile known as a tuatara.

The primary author of the study and zoo animal welfare scientist Dr. Ellen Williams spoke about the observations. She said:

“In elephants and birds, it was encouraging to see a reduction in those repetitive behaviors towards something more positive in the presence of people, although the absence of change in the majority of species was also really good because it suggests enclosure design is changing to better support animals in responding to visitors.”

At least we now know who to visit when we are at the zoo.

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