Study suggests elephants are popular with zoo guests

An elephant at Chester Zoo

Elephants have been observed to display positive behavior around visitors

According to a recent study, elephants in zoos love interacting with their visitors.

Harper Adams University and Nottingham Trent University conducted research that showed positive animal behaviors such as increased social activity around visitors while boredom indicators decreased.

Other animals such as polar bears, penguins and grizzly-bears also benefited from the study.

Nevertheless, some animals in zoos such as ostriches or other flightless birds, like marsupials react negatively towards visitors.

The study published in Animals examined the impact of visitors to zoos. It looked at more than 250 species.

After public feedings of elephants, researchers observed that the animals became more active.

Large groups of visitors also reduced repetitive behaviours that indicate boredom.

Other species that showed positive responses were grizzly and polar bears as well as cheetahs.

“Zoo guests are often aspects of an animal’s environment they cannot control, and as such, can be stressful. However, some species appear adaptable to the changing conditions,” said Dr Samantha Ward of Nottingham Trent University.

There are many different stimuli visitors can give in terms their behaviour, their noises and how they interact.

“We found that different species react differently to humans in zoos. Some cope better, while others do not.”

Visitors with a penguin at Edinburgh Zoo

A study revealed that penguins, cockatoos, and bears were also friendly with visitors.

The animals that did not cope well with the change were the flightless birds and odd-toed and even toed ungulates. Other animals included marsupials and tuataras.

The study did find that the animals’ reactions to visitors were “predominantly” neutral.

The animal’s response can be attributed to a variety of factors. Recognising these factors is crucial to improving welfare, said Dr Ellen Williams.

The absence of any change was good because it suggested that enclosure designs are changing to support animals better in responding to visitors.

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