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Behavioural Changes in Zoo Animals during the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Long-Term, Multi Species Comparison

Frost, N, Carter, A, Vernon, M, Armstrong, S, Walsh, ND, Colwill, M, Turner-Jepson, L, Ward, SJ and Williams, E (2022) Behavioural Changes in Zoo Animals during the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Long-Term, Multi Species Comparison. Journal of Zoological and Botanical Gardens, 3 (4). pp. 586-615.

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Open Access URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/jzbg3040044 (published)


Visitors are a prominent feature of the zoo environment and lives of zoo animals. The COVID-19 pandemic led to repeated and extended closure periods for zoos worldwide. This unique period in zoological history enabled the opportunity to investigate the consistency of behavioural responses of zoo animals to closures and subsequent reopenings. Bennett’s wallabies (Notamacropus rufogriseus), meerkats (Suricata suricatta), macaws (red and green: Ara chloropterus; blue and yellow: Ara ararauna; military: Ara militaris) and rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus domesticus) held at four zoological collections in the United Kingdom were studied during COVID-19 closures and subsequent reopening periods. Facilities were closed for three time periods during 2020 and 2021: March–June/July 2020; November–December 2020; January–April/May 2021. Behavioural data were captured during closures (maximum n = 3) and reopening periods (maximum n = 3) during five-min scans using instantaneous scan sampling with a one-minute inter-scan interval. General linear models (GLMs) and general linear mixed models (GLMMs) were used to investigate the relationship between observed behaviours and open/closed periods. Changes were observed in behaviour between open and closure periods in all species, and in some instances changes were also observed over time, with animals responding differently to different closure and reopening periods. However, no overt positive or negative impacts of the closures or reopening periods were identified for these species. The study species may have different relationships with zoo visitors, but no clear differences were seen across the species studied. The unique opportunity to study animals over a long period of time during repeated closure periods enabled a greater understanding of the impact of zoo visitors on animals. As with other work in this sphere, these data support the adaptability of zoo animals to zoo visitors. This work contributes to the growing field of research undertaken during the COVID-19 periods and enhances our understanding of the impact that these zoological closures had on a wider body of species in a number of facilities.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GE Environmental Sciences
Q Science > QH Natural history > QH301 Biology
Q Science > QL Zoology
Divisions: Biological & Environmental Sciences (from Sep 19)
Publisher: MDPI AG
SWORD Depositor: A Symplectic
Date Deposited: 21 Dec 2022 09:15
Last Modified: 21 Dec 2022 09:15
DOI or ID number: 10.3390/jzbg3040044
URI: https://researchonline.ljmu.ac.uk/id/eprint/18438
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