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Zoo Biol. 2019 Aug 8. doi: 10.1002/zoo.21509. [Epub ahead of print]

When zoo visitors "connect" with a zoo animal, what does that mean?

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Faculty of Veterinary and Agricultural Sciences, Animal Welfare Science Centre, The University of Melbourne, North Melbourne, Australia.


Connection with a zoo animal may increase conservation-mindedness in zoo visitors, potentially resulting in conservation-oriented behavior change. No research has attempted to establish what this "connection" actually means. Visitors (N = 85) to Melbourne Zoo were asked to name the animal with which they most connected, the extent to which they connected with it, and to qualitatively describe what it meant to connect with that animal. Many (but not all) participants connected with charismatic megafauna: primate, great ape, large carnivore, or large herbivore. Qualitative analysis revealed five common themes in the meaning of connection: Appreciation, Attribution, Inspires Emotions, Interaction, and Proximity. Overall connection level was significantly correlated with perceptions of conservation caring for the chosen species. Future research should aim to determine what factors affect a zoo visitor's connection level, which could impact attitudes and behaviors toward conservation.


appreciation; charismatic species; conservation; empathy; interaction


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