The effects of visitor density on sika deer (Cervus nippon) behaviour in Zhu-Yu-Wan Park, China
Visitors to zoos are a source of potential stress to certain captive-housed animals. Much research has focused on Europe and America, whereas the effect of human audiences on the behaviour of captive animals in Chinese parks has so far not been investigated. Sika deer (Cervus nippon) housed in Zhu-Yu-Wan Park, Yangzhou City, Jiangsu Province, China, were studied to determine the effect of different visitor density levels on the animals' activity. From June 21 to December 10, 2006, and again from February 21 to July 10, 2007, 21 subjects were observed for 10 h per week for a total of 44 weeks. Continuous focal animal sampling was used to quantify behaviours, and visitor density was recorded every minute. Friedman's tests were used to examine the effects of visitor density on the behaviour of sika deer. Results showed that high visitor density was significantly related to foraging, resting, watching and 'non-visible' behaviours. The findings demonstrate that high numbers of visitors have an effect on the welfare of sika deer.
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