Furred and feathered friends: how attached are zoo keepers to the animals in their care?

Vicky Melfi, Lindsay Skyner, Lynda Birke, Samantha J. Ward, Wendy S. Shaw, Geoff Hosey

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal Articlepeer-review

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Abstract

Keeper-animal relationships (KARs) appear to be important in zoos, since they can enhance the well-being of both the animals and the keepers, can make animal husbandry easier, but conversely might risk inappropriate habituation of animals and possible risks to the safety of keepers. It is, therefore, important to know more about the variables involved in relationship formation. Here we use a modified version of the Lexington Attachment to Pets Scale (LAPS) to measure the strength of KARs between keepers and animals in their care, both in the zoo and in the home. LAPS questionnaires were completed by 187 keepers in 19 different collections across three countries. LAPS scores for attachment to zoo animals (ZA) were significantly lower than for pet animals (PA). There was no significant difference in ZA scores between different taxa, but there were significant taxon differences between PA scores. There were significant differences in both ZA and PA scores between different collections. Female respondents scored more highly than males for both ZA and PA. Multiple regression revealed that location, gender and time spent with animals were significant predictors for ZA, while only gender and taxon were significant predictors for PA. It was concluded that PA scores were comparable with those for the general public, and reflected strong attachment of keepers to their pets, while ZA scores, although also reflecting attachment, were influenced by institutional culture differences and perhaps an acceptance of the ambiguities inherent in the relationship.
Original languageEnglish
JournalZoo Biology
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 1 Oct 2021

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