Behaviour 2019
How is Western lowland gorilla ábehavior and physiology impacted by 360░ visitor viewing access?
Maire O'Malley1,2, Jocelyn Woods1,3, Lance Miller1, Jocelyn Bryant1. 1Animal Welfare Research, Chicago Zoological Society, Brookfield, IL, United States; 2The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International, Atlanta, GA, United States; 3Department of Animal and Dairy Sciences, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI, United States

Visitor presence is frequently studied within zoos, but research has produced conflicting results regarding the impact of visitors on animal welfare. Our study used a novel experimental approach to differentiate from typical correlational designs of past studies. We investigated the impact of 360░ visitor viewing access on Western lowland gorillas’ (N=7) welfare. Behavioral observations and fecal samples were collected during baseline, where visitors were given 360░ viewing access, and treatment when visitor perimeter was reduced by ~75%. Results suggest when viewing was restricted that solitary grooming (z=-2.197, p< 0.05), fecal glucocorticoid metabolites (z=-2.201, p< 0.05), and the ratio of glucocorticoid metabolites to dehydroepiandrosterone metabolites (z=-2.201, p< 0.05) significantly decreased. Restricted viewing did not influence social grooming, play, feeding, stereotypies, locomotion, aggression, or inactivity. The results suggest that level of visitor access may influence the welfare of gorillas, but additional research is essential to comprehend the complete impact of visitor viewing access on animal welfare.