The influence of visitor interaction on the behavior of captive crowned lemurs (Eulemur coronatus) and implications for welfare

H Jones, P K McGregor, H L A Farmer, K R Baker
Zoo Biology 2016, 35 (3): 222-7
Research suggests that zoo visitors can have positive, negative, and neutral impacts on captive primate welfare; however, research investigating the implications of visitor-animal feeding experiences is extremely limited. In the UK, a large proportion of BIAZA zoos that house lemur species offer visitor interaction experiences (16 out of 33). This study investigated the impact on the behavior of a family group of crowned lemurs (Eulemur coronatus) housed at Newquay Zoo, UK of visitors, accompanied by a keeper, entering the enclosure to feed the lemurs. Behavior was observed under four conditions: (i) during visitor feed; (ii) 30 min post-visitor feed; (iii) during a keeper feed; and (iv) 30 min post-keeper feed. Keeper feeds were conducted by keepers only, on the day after visitor feeds. The lemur group spent significantly less time performing aggressive behavior and was also significantly more interactive with keepers during visitor feeds compared with keeper-only feeds. There was no significant difference in behaviors performed immediately after interacting with visitors. Over the study period, there was a tendency for interactions with visitors to increase, and for interactions with keepers during visitor feeds to decrease. After a 28-day interval without visitor interaction, the lemurs' interaction with visitors had returned to the level recorded at the start of the study. In conclusion, visitor interaction did not compromise the welfare of the study subjects in either the short- or long-term, while an increase in visitor interactions over time has interesting implications for the enrichment properties of, or habituation to, unfamiliar humans. Zoo Biol. 35:222-227, 2016. © 2016 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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