Presentation To London Zoo (Gorilla Enclosure)

London Zoo Research and Analysis

Click here for the complete presentation, you can view the video only on the individual slide but not in the Slide Show. I’m looking at software which can convert Powerpoint presentations in to Flash making the Slide Show far more user and web friendly, I’ll let you know how I get on and then try to publish it. I have been dwelling on the the ethics regarding our research at London Zoo and I’ve now decided to broach the subject, I think from the beginning my preconceptions have continually changed, I had a bad experience at Bristol Zoo, I saw a Polar Bear in a pitiful state and didn’t really ever want to go back to a Zoo. However my experience with London Zoo is very different, the enclosure is a fantastic success already, it is also a very beautiful building and a spacious island for the 3 amazing Gorilla’s. The animals are cared for by a team of animal fanatics who give Bobby, Zaire & Effy a great life, with a good shovel of love. Our research is testament to the Zoo’s desire to maintain the highest levels of care in their establishment and investigate any observed behaviour which is in anyway detrimental to the well being of the captive animals. Zaire seemed to be the most disturbed and had shown signs of R/R (regurgitation and reingestion) example below.

 You can click the pause button at any time to stop the video.

I have deliberately embedded this particular video because it brings me on to the more disappointing aspect of our research which the videographers commentary represents very clearly, it also appears to be a predominant attitude of a significant percentage of young people who visit Zoo’s. We filmed a group of young people who showed scant regard for Zaire, she seemed uncomfortable and even harrassed by them (large file).  There are in fact hundreds of similar video’s which people have taken using their mobile phones on YouTube. It’s possible that people need a bit more of Skinner’s Operant Conditioning when going to Zoo’s, perhaps therefore, engaging and freely available education is key.  It would appear, for instance that evidence is building to describe R/R as an ‘Adaptive Response’ , Lukas et al. Darwin once described anger as an adaptive response to a blocked goal, which may put the behaviour into context. However it is important to note that roughly 65% of captive Gorillas participate in R/R, so it’s a relatively common  behaviour in captive Gorillas but abnormal in the wild. 

Could it be visitor behaviour which is affecting theirs? 

 I also decided to investigate the anti Zoo perspective and had a look at Born Free a high profile web site being quoted by the BBC as they are very clearly anti-Zoo’s and provide a negative stance. They also provide some good information regarding conservation, welfare and education which should all be read.

My conclusion is that I have read and digested some persuasive criticisms but still find myself being very proud to be involved with research at London Zoo and particularly into educating visitors into playing their very influential role in the welfare of captive Gorillas, “to observe in quite awe is the ideal solution” Coe 1985. Let’s hope so one day. The use of the new Interactive Guides would certainly hope to increase immersion and calm behaviour, which in turn could have a positive effect on the Gorillas well being and perhaps even aspects of animal welfare issues promoted by the Born Free web site. A lot to hope for but combined with some of the briefs outlined in our presentation, a distinct possibility.

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