Looking for Visitor’s Effect in Sanctuaries: Implications of Guided Visitor Groups on the Behavior of the Chimpanzees at Fundació Mona

López-Álvarez, Jana
Sanjorge, Yaiza
Soloaga, Sara
Crailsheim, Dietmar
Llorente Espino, Miquel
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Organizations housing wildlife have a great potential to raise awareness and to contribute to conservation causes, along with a great responsibility towards the animals in their care. Displayed animals, taking on the role of ambassadors, are often exposed to the influence and actions of a great number of non-familiar humans. Studies trying to quantify the impact of visitors on captive housed animals have been very contradicting. In this study we report a neutral visitor impact on the behavior of chimpanzees, housed at a sanctuary with strict visitor protocols and supervision as well as animal management strategies, allowing animals a certain amount of choice and control over their visibility. By contrasting the mild visitor impact observed at the sanctuary to a great many studies, conducted at zoos with unsupervised free roaming visitors, often reporting undesirable effects, we wish to emphasise the importance to carefully managed visitor activities. We suggest that it is possible to mitigate potentially harmful visitor effects by restricting and supervising the visitor’s freedom of actions as well as providing animals on display with the means to evade or at least cope with the presence of visitors ​
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