Visitor-animal interactions in zoos: a framework to help interpret the contradictory data in this field

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstract


Human populations are rising, climate is changing and species are becoming extinct: in an increasingly urban world people are having an unprecedented and negative impact. The mission of most modern zoos is to mitigate many of these negative ramifications, through a myriad of programmes, including the use of managed animal populations and educational messaging both on site in and external to the zoo. Zoos are widely associated with providing visitor-animal interactions, at a variety of levels, as their raison d’etre. Balancing animal welfare and human wellbeing during zoo visitor-animal interactions can be both contradictory, as well as complimentary.

To date, most empirical data collected on zoo visitor-animal interactions has considered the impact of zoo visitors at ‘stand and stare’ exhibits, with fewer studies considering the other ‘levels’ at which visitor-human interactions occur in zoos. The diversity of zoo visitor-animal interactions provided by zoos, can include changes to the animals housing and husbandry, direct contact between visitors and animals and much more. To clarify what knowledge, and gaps, exist in our understanding of zoo visitor-animal interactions a framework for considering zoo visitor-animal interactions is presented here. With reference to the published literature, this framework highlights that there are many data which still need to be collected to fully appreciate the impact of zoo visitor-animal interactions on animal welfare and human wellbeing, not least the growing provision of ‘encounters’ where zoo visitors and animals are bought into close proximity to one another.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2019
EventInternational Society for Anthrozoology Annual Conference 2019: Animals in the Public eye: Interactions and perceptions of animals - Orlando, United States
Duration: 1 Jul 20194 Jul 2019


ConferenceInternational Society for Anthrozoology Annual Conference 2019
Abbreviated titleISAZ 2019
Country/TerritoryUnited States


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