Claire writes about her own research project for her final year dissertation: a study into the effects of weather and visitor number on Ring-tailed lemurs in a walk-through zoo enclosure
During the winter months of October- November 2014, I observed the effects of weather and visitor number on the behaviour of captive Ring tailed lemurs for my dissertation research. This was a follow on study from Kayleigh Moody’s dissertation research from the previous year, her study highlighted gaps in the research which allowed for this study. West Midlands Safari Park (WMSP) is home to the UK’s largest walk through enclosure, which was where the data collection took place. It was carried out with the support of Dr Anne Goodenough and Katie McDonald, who is based at WMSP.
This involved recording nine behaviours using an ethogram. This was carried out for different weather types on one busy and one quiet visitor day. As always when British weather is involved, things do not always go to plan…! My aim to collect data from opening to closing with consistent weather type proved difficult, but eventually I gained ten full sampling days, some of which were sunny, some overcast and some rainy. I also recorded visitor number, time of day and activity, which included active and passive visitors. Active visitors were those who attempted to feed/call the lemurs, which to the keepers despair was a frequent occurrence!
The results displayed that weather was affecting lemur behaviour.
Visitors and time of day still had an effect but only on a few behaviours, showing that weather was a greater driving factor of behaviour. Although visitors had little effect overall, they did affect feeding relating back to active visitors attempting to feed the lemurs. These results are important for the welfare of ring tailed lemurs in walk through enclosures, as it gives us a greater insight into understanding the effects of close proximity visitors, not only at WMSP but other captive collections.
Claire Wheeler, BSc Animal Biology final year undergraduate