Assessing Animal Welfare in Animal-Visitor Interactions in Zoos and Other Facilities. A Pilot Study Involving Giraffes

Simona Normando, Ilaria Pollastri, Daniela Florio, Linda Ferrante, Elisabetta Macchi, Valentina Isaja, Barbara de Mori
Animals: An Open Access Journal From MDPI 2018 August 30, 8 (9)
In recent years, awareness of the controversial aspects connected with wild animal-visitor interactions (AVIs) in zoos and other facilities has increased due to cultural changes. Therefore, the need to apply transparent procedures to evaluate AVIs programs in zoos and similar facilities has also increased. This study presents results of animal welfare's assessment of a pilot test of a protocol based on six steps that aim to explore and assess the overall value of AVIs considering the impact both on animals and visitors. In the present paper, we discuss the multifaceted approach to animal welfare assessment during animal-visitor interactions, combining quantitative behavioural observations/analysis and a welfare risk-assessment procedure, which forms the basis of the six-step protocol. Pilot testing of said approach to animal welfare assessment involved giraffes ( Giraffa camelopardalis ) in an Italian zoo. No change in behaviour, suggestive of an increased welfare risk to the animals, was found. The risk analysis reported overall low risks for welfare, whereas enclosure analysis highlighted that the enclosure was suitable for allowing interactions without jeopardising animal welfare, mainly because it allowed animals to choose whether to interact or withdraw from interactions without decreasing the space available to them.

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