Zoo Animals and Their Human Audiences: What is the Visitor Effect?
The presence of human visitors has been shown to affect the behaviour of several different mammalian species in a number of different zoos, but the behavioural changes observed are not always consistent with a simple 'stressful influence' explanation. Data for non-primate species are too sparse to draw meaningful conclusions; but for primates, the evidence reviewed in this paper allows several hypotheses to be tested. Neither a social facilitation nor an audience attraction hypothesis can be generally supported by the available studies. However, these studies are consistent with a general stressful influence hypothesis, although the extent of this influence is itself affected by other variables, notably species and housing differences. There is some evidence that chronic exposure to human audiences may lessen this stressful influence in some species; and in certain circumstances (notably where some members of the public throw food) the effect of the audience is almost an enriching one.
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