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J Appl Anim Welf Sci. 2015;18(3):303-9. doi: 10.1080/10888705.2014.977384. Epub 2014 Nov 17.

Pond use by captive African penguins (Spheniscus demersus) in an immersive exhibit adjacent to human bathers.

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a Department of Life Sciences and Systems Biology , University of Torino , Italy.


Nonhuman animals in zoos are exposed to a continuous human presence, which affects their behaviors and welfare. However, little is known about what role the "visitor effect" has on penguins in captivity. The African penguin (Spheniscus demersus) is an endangered species commonly housed in zoos worldwide. The aim of this study was to evaluate whether the abundance of human bathers could reduce the average time spent in the water of a colony of African penguins housed in an exhibit where their pond habitat was adjacent to a swimming pool. Observations were carried out on 7 penguins in the summer of 2009. Data were collected during 3 time periods (Time 1 [T1] = opening of the swimming season, Time 2 [T2] = core of the season, Time 3 [T3] = late season) of 14 days each. The human disturbance caused by bathers strongly reduced the pond use by penguins at T1 and T2, especially when there were large numbers of visitors. However, at T3, we observed that the overall use of the pond by penguins increased, and the average duration of their diving was no longer dependent on the number of visitors.


animal welfare; captive birds; jackass penguin; visitor effect

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