Human-Animal Bonds Between Zoo Professionals and the Animals in Their Care

Geoff Hosey, Vicky Melfi

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal Articlepeer-review

75 Citations (Scopus)


Some human-animal relationships can be so positive that they confer emotional well-being to both partners and can thus be viewed as bonds. In this study, 130 delegates at zoo research and training events completed questionnaires in which they were asked about their professional work in the zoo and whether they believed they had established bonds with any animals. They were also asked to indicate agreement or disagreement with several statements about human-animal bonds. Results showed that many zoo professionals consider that they have established bonds with some of their animals; 103 respondents believed that they had a bond with at least one animal, and 78 of these identified that the bond was with a zoo animal. The most frequent bonds reported were with primates (n = 24) and carnivores (n = 28). Perceived benefits of these bonds to the respondents included both operational (animal easier to handle, easier to administer treatments to) and affective (sense of well-being, enjoyment at being with the animal). Identifying benefits to the animals was more difficult. Most respondents identified similar benefits for their animals as for themselves, i.e. operational (animal responded more calmly, appeared less stressed) and affective (animal appeared to enjoy contact with respondent, seemed more content). This suggests that bonding between zoo professionals and their animals could have profound consequences for the management and welfare of the animals, not to mention the job satisfaction of the people involved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)13-26
Number of pages14
JournalZoo Biology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2012
Externally publishedYes


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