Behaviour of animals in a mixed-species African savannah zoo exhibit related to expansion of the enclosure, visitor numbers and weather effects

Animal welfare in zoos has been in focus lately, especially in relation to visitor effects. Visitors have been observed to have either a positive, neutral, or negative effect on zoo animals, and studies have shown that this can depend on the species and the enclosure. I got the opportunity to study the animals in the African savannah exhibit at Kristiansand Zoological Garden in 2022 in relation to the expansion of the enclosure. The study subjects consisted of four zebra, two blesbok, eleven eland, three giraffes and nine ostriches. Kristiansand Zoological Garden wanted to know how behaviour of the animals in the savannah enclosure would be affected by the new space as well as if there was a visitor effect due to the enlarged exposure to visitors. I also wanted to see if there was a weather effect on the animal’s behaviour. I hypothesized that there would be an increase in the use of the new area as days went by since the opening of the area, as well as an increase in walking and standing behaviour and less foraging in relation to higher visitor numbers. I also expected that there would be more standing with lower temperatures and higher wind speed, and more lying behaviour with higher temperatures. The use of the new area increased as days went by for all species except for the ostriches, which used the new space the most at the beginning. Space use varied with the time of day and visitor number. The visitor numbers had no significant main effect on foraging, walking and standing behaviour, but the animals were observed more with their heads down and lying down as visitor numbers increased. There was no increase in walking behaviour in relation to visitor numbers except in the ostriches. There was variation in foraging between species in relation to temperature and in lying down in relation to temperature and wind speed. There was an increase in heads up and lying down in relation to days gone by since opening of the new area. Overall, there was significant variation between species and the behaviours observed in relation to the new area, visitor numbers and weather effects. The new area was well used as time went by, especially by the ostriches and eland. Although behaviour varied with the visitor numbers, most of the animals seemed to be well-habituated towards visitors and could be considered to have a neutral relationship with them.

Publish DateSeptember 4, 2023
Last UpdatedSeptember 4, 2023