A preliminary assessment of how zoo visitors evaluate animal welfare according to enclosure style and the expression of behavior

Vicky A. Melfi, W. McCormick, A. Gibbs

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal Article

15 Citations (Scopus)


Visitors to zoos make judgements about animal welfare on the basis of what they see during their visit. Tliere has been a considerable amount of research and debate surrounding the use of enclosure style and/or animal behavior to act as indicators of animal welfare. There are assumptions, supported by some studies but contradicted by others, that naturalistic enclosures and the expres- sion of "wild behavior" inherently promote good welfare. These assumptions also appear to be used by the public to judge the welfare of zoo-housed ani- mals. The aim of this study was to evaluate whether visitors to Paignton Zoo Environmental Parky UK, were using these assumptions to judge the welfare of zoo-housed animals. Visitors (ri=42) were shown two series of photo- graphs (n=8 in each series), one representing different primate enclosure styles and one depicting different tiger behaviors. The visitors were asked to rank the photographs in response to a series of questions (n=4 primate enclosure; n_=5 tiger behavior). The public were consistent in their assess- ment of enclosure styles, which confirmed they held the assumption that nat- uralistic enclosures are good; all respondents rated the greenest enclosure highly and thought its inhabitants would have the best welfare. The inter- pretation of captive tiger behavior was also consistent across respondents, but this did not clearly indicate that they thought wild behavior was good Most respondents thought that tigers in captivity and in the wild performed similar behavior. However, they did not think that expression of wild-type behavior was indicative of good welfare in captivit
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)98-108
Number of pages11
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2004
Externally publishedYes



  • Animal welfare
  • Behavior
  • Enclosure
  • Naturalistic
  • Primate
  • Tiger
  • Zoo visitor

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