Vol 8, Issue 4, November 2021

Signs and Docents in Zoo Visitor Education: Using Affinitive Chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes) Behaviors


Zager, L. N., & Jensvold, M. L. A. (2021). Signs and docents in zoo visitor education: Using affinitive chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes) behaviors. Animal Behavior and Cognition, 8(4), 589-600. https://doi.org/10.26451/abc.


The goals of zoos are providing an entertaining and educational experience for visitors, promoting environmental conservation, and promoting positive welfare for nonhuman residents. Education can unify these goals. In this study, data were collected on visitors to the chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes) exhibit at The Zoo Northwest Florida. Researchers implemented three conditions of education at the chimpanzee viewing platform: a graphic sign, a trained docent, and a control condition with no intervention. The sign and docent encouraged visitors to use affinitive chimpanzee behaviors. Visitors were significantly more active in the graphic sign condition and significantly less active in the docent condition, and their behavior did not vary from the expected value during the control condition. Visitors used the affinitive behaviors that were demonstrated in each experimental condition. These results suggest that both graphic signs and docent interaction affect visitor behavior and can be considered useful educational tools for fulfilling the goals of the zoos.


Zoo, Visitor behavior, Visitor education, Species-specific behavior, Animal visitor interaction, Visitor effect