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The effect of human generated noise on captive wildlife

Discussion in 'General Zoo Discussion' started by achilee, 26 Oct 2016.

  1. achilee

    achilee Member

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    Something to share & keep in mind next time we visit a zoo...

    Often we forget that we're not the quietest species. Then how does noise affect the welfare of animals in captivity? Well, If you build a record of the noise level at your local zoo (using apps such NoiseTube for example), you will be surprised to realize that many instances will reach high levels (too high for our animal friends), and these have adverse effects on the captive animals who can't do anything about it (they have nowhere to go, and often don't have the choice to remove themselves from the public enclosure and get to quieter quarters. Of course when one laughs loudly and scream in excitement that gets us "up there" pretty quickly, and when it is fairly constant (or repeated) as with groups of visitors over the time a zoo is opened during the day time (or night)... Well then one can grasp how it may affect the animals. The problem is that constant exposure of high human noise pollution affects them at different levels: physiology, behaviorally, immunologically... And there have been science studies that even shows (we kid you not) that some instances of prolonged exposures to noise pollution can even trigger genetic changes (for the worst of course).

    In short, Zoo visitors can have a negative welfare impact on individual zoo-housed mammals, especially groups of noisy visitors where levels were recorded outside of the recommended limits for human well-being (>70 dB(A)). Thus, zoos need to address this issue, probably, through a combination of visitor education campaigns and acoustic modification to enclosures [see peer-reviewed publication below]. Until they do so, ourselves we can make a change: tune down and lead by example. Joy does not need to be loud, does it?

    There is a lot of science and veterinary literature on the topic that do a great job explaining the issues. Here is one reference to get us started: Zoo visitor effect on mammal behaviour: Does noise matter? by Sandra Quadros, Vinicius D.L. Goulart, Luiza Passos, Marco A.M. Vecci, Robert J. Younga. in Applied Animal Behavior Science. Volume 156, July 2014, Pages 78–84. [http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0168159114001051]
     
    Last edited: 26 Oct 2016
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  2. Nikola Chavkosk

    Nikola Chavkosk Well-Known Member

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    Very interesting. I believe all this is true.
    Maybe water-proof enclosure barriers (like laminated glass, plastic pannels, etc.) can reduce noice level from visitors a lot.
    Generaly I don't like to criticize zoos, but I would mention one example that I have observed in one zoo, in that in mixed walk-through bird aviary, with both semi-indoor part covered with plastic pannels roof that was periodically producing noice because of wind, and outdoor part well protected from visitors, the birds were almost all in the outdoor, calmer part, not in the indoor part with not that best fixed roof. In another aviary, the same was case with roof from tick nylon or PVC crystal, that was producing periodic noice from the wind, and some birds were at one time screaming, like the red-billed toucan (looked like poor bird, but that's maybe just expression of natural behavior I don't know), and visitors also produced noices in the tropical aviary too.
    Zoo animals must be better protected when that is needed, in regards to every aspect.
     
    Last edited: 26 Oct 2016
  3. Giant Panda

    Giant Panda Well-Known Member

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    There actually hasn't been all that much research on this. Despite Nikola's wholehearted approval, the study cited above is an example of the poor experimental design endemic to zoo research: it was mensurative rather than manipulative, sample size was limited, interspecific variation was ignored, responses indicating poor welfare were inferred rather than predicted, only behaviour was recorded, there was little meaningful distinction between visitor presence/density and noise, nor any attempt to separate correlation from causation. I could go on, but unfortunately it’s still pretty much the best we have.
     
  4. RetiredToTheZoo

    RetiredToTheZoo Well-Known Member

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    I'm not sure about all this. There may reputable research and/or evidence out there attempting to prove human noise is detrimental to captive animal behavior, I don't know. However, that has not manifested itself in my experiences and observations. Since most zoo animals today (especially the large mammals) are born and/or raised in captivity, I believe the noise in zoos has become part of their native environment to which they have adapted, are accustomed to and, pay little to no attention to it. In fact, I have seen the opposite. Animals will sometimes act stressed and uneasy when there is no noise and there should be (like a large crowd of people watching but making very little noise).
     
  5. achilee

    achilee Member

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    Thanks for the comment Giant Panda. Let me gather other peer-reviewed work so that we can develop further the discussion.
     
  6. Zooplantman

    Zooplantman Well-Known Member

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    The experience of human noise in the public viewing areas is not the same as the sound in the animal space. Go in there for your measurements if the animal's experience is what you want to study.
     
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  7. Arizona Docent

    Arizona Docent Moderator Staff Member

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    My intuition tells me that noise is upleasant for the animals, but I have not studied it, just a hunch. One thing I do know is that the noise bothers me! Visiting a zoo when there are few other visitors around is a joy compared to visiting on a crowded day. The peace and quiet is a true gift.
     
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  8. Arizona Docent

    Arizona Docent Moderator Staff Member

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    As a followup, I have been concerned about zoos that put on concerts to raise money. I wonder how it affects the animals?
     
  9. Giant Panda

    Giant Panda Well-Known Member

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    Last edited: 10 Nov 2016
  10. Zooplantman

    Zooplantman Well-Known Member

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    In the early 20th Century the Cincinnati Zoo had a concert pavilion in the center of the zoo. It was the original home of the Cincinnati opera. At the time there were regular reports of the lions and other animals roaring, etc., to the music. And that was before electric amplification