Impacts of COVID-19 on animals in zoos: a longitudinal multi-species analysis

Williams, E. ORCID: 0000-0003-4492-1605, Carter, A. ORCID: 0000-0002-6216-2377, Rendle, J. and Ward, S.J. ORCID: 0000-0002-5857-1071, 2021. Impacts of COVID-19 on animals in zoos: a longitudinal multi-species analysis. Journal of Zoological and Botanical Gardens, 2 (2), pp. 130-145. ISSN 2673-5636

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Prolonged and repetitive COVID-19 facility closures have led to an abrupt cessation of visitors within UK and Irish zoos for variable periods since March 2020. This study sought to increase understanding of the impact of closures and reopenings on animal behaviour, thereby broadening understanding of whether zoo animals habituate to visitors. Data were collected from June to August 2020 at two UK facilities on eight species (n = 1 Chinese goral, n = 2 Grevy’s zebra, n = 11 swamp wallaby, n = 2 Rothschild’s giraffe, n = 2 nyala, n = 4 Chapman’s zebra, n = 2 snow leopard and n = 3 Amur leopard). Behaviour change and enclosure use was variable across species but most changes were non-significant. Grevy’s zebra engaged in more comfort behaviour during closure periods than post-closure (p < 0.05). Chinese goral engaged in more environmental interactions during closure periods (p < 0.05). Grevy’s zebra spent longer than would be expected by chance closest to public viewing areas during closure periods (p < 0.008). These results suggest variable impacts of covid-19 closures and reopenings, mirroring human-animal interaction literature. We highlight the potential for some species to take longer to re-habituate to the presence of zoo visitors. As facility closures/reopenings are ongoing, we advocate a longitudinal monitoring approach. Furthermore, we recommend incorporation of physical and physiological measures of welfare where possible, alongside behavioural responses, to enable a holistic approach to answering fundamental questions on whether zoo animals habituate to visitors.

Item Type: Journal article
Publication Title: Journal of Zoological and Botanical Gardens
Creators: Williams, E., Carter, A., Rendle, J. and Ward, S.J.
Publisher: MDPI AG
Date: 2021
Volume: 2
Number: 2
ISSN: 2673-5636
Rights: Copyright: © 2021 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (
Divisions: Schools > School of Animal, Rural and Environmental Sciences
Record created by: Linda Sullivan
Date Added: 13 Apr 2021 08:14
Last Modified: 31 May 2021 15:04

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