This collaborative project employs both existing and novel techniques to determine the effects, and subsequent value, of visitor-animal interactions in the zoo. Understanding the outcomes of these interactions is of great interest to both Taronga and the zoo profession in general, to ensure we meet our conservation goals. The education value of our animals needs to be maximised, without compromising on welfare, in order to inspire and communicate our daily action for the conservation of wildlife and habitats. Taronga relies on evidence-based decision making in many areas of our management, and this is an area that requires significant attention and the development of new, reliable techniques that can be applied across all our activities.
Preliminary evidence is shedding light on visitor behaviour, attention and learnings as they visit the zoo. Most excitingly, we are discovering novel mechanisms to engage visitors and guide behaviour so that people gain the maximum impact of their visit while our animals remain in a positive welfare state.
Belinda Hall (Masters student) successfully completed her study looking at whether visitor interactions can be predicted by an animal’s response to novelty, with the resulting paper now under peer-review. Chloe Mylonas (Honours student) successfully achieved first class Honours for her project looking at using zoo records to evaluate the effects of visitors on zoo animals. The resulting paper is currently being prepared for peer-reviewed publication.
Taronga: Dr Alicia Burns, Dr Caralyn Kemp
Sydney University: Dr Vicky Melfi
University of Western Sydney: Dr Jessica Meade
University of Melbourne: Dr Paul Hemsworth, Professor Grahame Coleman
Zoos Victoria: Dr Mike Magrath, Ms Sally Sherwin