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A Global Review of Animal-Visitor Interactions in Modern Zoos and Aquariums and Their Implications for Wild Animal Welfare

D'Cruze, Neil and Khan, Sophie and Carder, Gemma and Megson, David and Coulthard, Emma and Norrey, John and Groves, Georgina (2019) A Global Review of Animal-Visitor Interactions in Modern Zoos and Aquariums and Their Implications for Wild Animal Welfare. Animals, 9 (6). ISSN 2076-2615

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Abstract

We provide an initial insight into the occurrence and characteristics of animal-visitor interactions (AVIs) involving captive wild animals within zoos and aquaria. Using information provided online via official public websites of modern zoos and aquaria, we found that AVIs were provided by the majority of facilities. Our study revealed that a variety of AVI types were being offered. Globally, petting captive wild animals was the most prevalent AVI type advertised (n = 1241 observations, 43% (534) of facilities) and Mammalia was the most advertised taxonomic class (n = 5142; 53% (2739)). We found certain AVI types that were more commonly offered than predicted. These were opportunities to: (1) Hand feed captive wild animals in Asia, North America and Oceania; (2) ride wild animals in Europe and North America; (3) walk with or swim through wild animal enclosures in Asia; and (4) walk with wild animals in Asia and Europe. Given the global prevalence of AVIs in modern zoos and aquaria, and an apparent lack of animal welfare focused research, we provide recommendations to help effectively balance and manage captive wild animal welfare with other primary interconnected goals.

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