The effectiveness of signage at mitigating visitor-bird interactions at Auckland Zoo

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Nielson, B.
Kemp, Caralyn
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Conference Contribution - Oral Presentation
Ngā Upoko Tukutuku (Māori subject headings)
Auckland Zoo (N.Z.)
Auckland (N.Z.)
New Zealand
zoo visitors
behaviour change intervention
human-bird interactions
animal welfare
ANZSRC Field of Research Code (2020)
Nielson, B., & Kemp, C. (2022, December 8-9). The effectiveness of signage at mitigating visitor-bird interactions at Auckland Zoo [Paper presentation]. Rangahau: Te Mana o te Mahi Kotahitanga: Research: The Power of Collaboration, MIT/Unitec Research Symposium 2022, Te Pūkenga, New Zealand
Auckland Zoo has had reports of high levels of visitor-bird interactions in three walkthrough aviaries: red-tailed black cockatoo (Calyptorhynchus banksii) (RTBC), kea (Nestor notabilis), and kaka (Nestor meridionalis). There is concern that these visitor-bird interactions may have negative impacts on the welfare of both bird and visitor. Current prevention methods of these potentially negative behaviours (PNBs) are volunteer presence and signage. However, there have been few studies investigating how effective these strategies are at reducing visitor interactions. We investigated the frequency of visitor-bird interactions at the three locations to determine who was eliciting them, and did so under two conditions: signage and no signage. Three sign types were trialled. Approximately 40hrs at each enclosure were spent recording the number of visitors and the number of visitors who engaged with a bird, who elicited the interaction, and basic demographics of the visitor involved. Results found visitors elicited interactions three times more often than birds. The kea exhibit had the highest proportion of interactions, compared to the other walkthrough enclosures. Signage was not more effective than no signage at reducing visitor-bird interactions in the kea and RTBC exhibit. Only Sign 1 was more effective than no signage in the kaka exhibit (p = 0.009). There was no significant difference in proportion of PNBs between age groups in any exhibit and only a sex difference in the kea enclosure. It is difficult to speculate why signage had little impact, but anecdotal observations found that volunteers, and even some keepers, would either ignore or encourage visitor-bird interactions. This suggests that visitors may be taking their cue from other people, rather than from informative signs. Indeed, previous research has found that zoo visitors rarely read signage. With signage not being effective at Auckland Zoo, and volunteers not deterring visitors from engaging in PNBs with the birds, future research needs to identify visitor motivations and alternative mitigation strategies to suitably educate visitors on appropriate behaviour with animals.
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