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Effects of construction noise on behaviour of and exhibit use by Snow leopards Uncia uncia at Basel zoo

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Abstract

Noise caused by human activities can cause stress in animals. We examined whether noise from construction sites affects the behaviour of and exhibit use by three Snow leopards Uncia uncia at Basel zoo. The behaviour and location of the animals were recorded at 1 minute intervals, using the instantaneous scan sampling method over a period of 216 hours (104 hours on noisy days and 112 hours on quiet days). The animals differed individually in their responses to the construction noise. On noisy days, the Snow leopards generally spent less time in locomotion and more time resting, but even on quiet days, resting was the predominant behaviour performed. Under noisy conditions, they increased social resting and decreased resting alone. Walking and social walking were also reduced on noisy days. Furthermore, the Snow leopards spent considerably more time in the remote off-exhibit enclosure under noisy conditions. Independent of background noise, they stayed more than half of the time in the caves and the forecourts of the outdoor enclosure. On quiet days, the Snow leopards used more sectors of their exhibit than on noisy days. The results indicate that the Snow leopards responded to construction noise by increasing the amount of time spent resting and by withdrawing to the remote parts of their exhibit.

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