Behavioral response of 12 ungulate species in captivity to the presence of humans


  • Valerie Del Thompson

    Corresponding author
    1. Zoological Society of San Diego, San Diego
    • Zoological Society of San Diego, P.O. Box 551, San Diego, CA 92112
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Twelve species of captive ungulates were studied to determine behavioral responses to the presence of a zookeeper within the exhibit and in front of the exhibit, with and without zoo visitors present. Significant differences in behavior occurred between species for nearly all behaviors observed. A significantly greater occurrence of vigilance and approach behavior was directed toward the zookeeper while within the exhibit relative to when the zookeeper stood in front of the exhibit. A significantly lower occurrence of eating or drinking occurred when the zookeeper was inside the exhibit. Significant differences occurred across size categories in the occurrence of approaching the zookeeper.

The most frequently scored behavior was visual orientation. Statistically significant differences in the occurrence of visual orientation directed by females toward the zookeeper existed across size category, with more vigilance by species with larger body size. A statistically higher occurrence of vigilance toward the zookeeper was directed by female ungulates but not by males when the zoo was closed to the public.

Although no statistical significance was found regarding the intraspecific vigilance of males, data on females revealed significant differences across species and across size categories. When data regarding vigilance toward the public were analyzed, statistically significant differences existed between species for females only. Likewise, when data regarding interspecific vigilance were examined, statistically significant differences were found across size categories for females, but not for males. The potential roles of vigilance in the wild are discussed in reference to its role in captivity.