09 December 2020

WE OBSERVED VISITOR RESPONSE TO DIFFERENT SPECIES AT CHESTER ZOO, RECORDING WHETHER EACH SELECTED VISITOR STOPPED TO VIEW THE SPECIES AND, IF SO, HOW LONG THEY STOPPED FOR.

From this we concluded that visitors show more interest in mammals than other taxonomic groups. One role that may be assigned to a species is that of education. In order to assess which species might be best suited to an educational role, we studied the attracting power and holding time of 40 species across Chester Zoo.

The attracting power of a species was measured by the number visitors who stopped to view the animal, and the holding time was measured by the length of these stops. We believe that visitors are more likely to stop at animals that they are interested in, and the more interested they are in the animal, the longer they are likely to spend viewing it. The longer the viewing time, the more opportunity the visitor has to learn something about the species. Because of this, species with an educational role should be species that visitors are interested in.

We found that mammals were the most popular taxonomic group, with higher holding times than species from other groups. Mammals were the only group to have a higher than average attracting power and holding time. Amphibians and fish both had an attracting power that was greater than average, while all other measures based on taxonomic group were below average.

We also discovered some other associations between attracting power, holding time and external factors. We found that holding times are greater when the animal being viewed is more active. We also found a positive relationship between increasing body length in the species and holding time. Finally, we found that flagship species, which are the focal species for the exhibit they are in, had a greater holding time than the integral, or supporting, species.

Overall, we found that visitor interest in a species was most accurately indicated by the taxonomic group that the species in question belongs to. It appears that mammals are the most popular group of animals in the zoo from our results. Based on our findings, we suggest that the role of each species within a zoo collection should be backed up with evidence. It should be demonstrated that species in an education role are interesting to visitors, as visitors are less likely to learn if they are not interested in the species.

KEY OUTCOMES

  • On Average visitors stopped to view mammal species for longer than those in any other taxonomic group!
  • Positive relationship between the length of the animal, and how long visitors spend viewing it.
  • Less time spent viewing bird species than any other taxonomic group!

PUBLICATIONS:

Moss, A. & Esson, M. 2010. Visitor interest in zoo animals and the implications for collection planning and zoo education programmes, Zoo Biology, 29, 715-731.

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