Visitor responses at National Zoological Gardens, Dehiwala, Sri Lanka
reportposted on 06.12.2017, 00:00 by Subhash HathurusinghaSubhash Hathurusingha
People visit zoos to meet animals, to observe them. It is, in fact, a monument to the impossibility of such natural encounters. There are number of factors that affect visitor responses, animal's activity and personality, exhibit design, visitor's personality, age, gender, level of education, cultural background, days weather, visual competition, etc. (Bitgood et al. 1988; Bitgood 2002; Davey, Henzi & Higgins 2005). Some irresponsible zoo visitors flaunt the rules by ‘irresponsibly’ feeding the animals, and in some cases, inflict deliberate injury. In contrast some visitors have been injured or killed by reaching into a cage to feed or pet an animal (Fox 1990). This study aimed to comprehend various factors affecting zoo visitor’s response. Six enclosures were selected based on their representative differences, their sizes were measured and physical features were recorded including relative distance between observation point and animals and length of the observation point. At each exhibit 5 successive visitor groups were observed for viewing time. Composition of each group (male/female/children) and activity of animals were also recorded. This was repeated for 6 random weekend days. Ten randomly selected visitor groups from different ethnicity were followed from starting point to the end and they were interviewed informally. Four observers were assigned to record events at locations know to be potentially vulnerable to adverse incidents. Furthermore, numbers of visitor stops were recorded at ten exhibits at different levels of visual competition. Results confirmed most of the observations made by previous authors apart from the effect of visual competition and animal’s size on visitor’s response. Female dominant visitor groups and groups with children seemed to spend more time at exhibits than male dominant visitor groups and groups without children. Also there was a hint of gender based animal preference. Irresponsible visitor behaviors that occur frequently may have been caused by acute factors like sociocultural and socioeconomic pressure or chronic factors like extra juvenile behavior of some individual visitors and induced hostile behavior of some male animals.