Impact of Zoo Visitors on the Fecal Cortisol Levels and Behavior of an Endangered Species: Indian Blackbuck

Rajagopal, T., Archunan, G., & Sekar, M. (2011). Impact of zoo visitors on the fecal cortisol levels and behavior of an endangered species: Indian blackbuck (Antelope cervicapra L.). Journal of applied animal welfare science, 14(1), 18-32.


This study investigated behavior and fecal cortisol concentrations in captive Indian blackbuck at the conservation and breeding center in Arignar Anna Zoological Park in Vanalur, Chennai, Mail Nadu, South India. The researchers studied 8 adult males, all captive born, with an average age of 5 years old.  They were living in an outdoor enclosure and subject to heavy visitor traffic. The authors studied the fecal samples of the blackbuck during zero visitor density days, which where zoo holidays, low visitors density days, when the daily number ranged from 528 to 1774, and the high visitor density days when the mean number of visitors was about  10,379. The blackbucks were observed on 15 separate days for 6 hours per day by trained observers who recorded their behaviors. The researchers collected fecal samples from each individual during each type of visitor density. The samples were collected during the early morning hours a day after each kind of density. A total of 96 fecal samples were collected. The behavioral activities that the researchers examined were resting, moving, aggressive, social, and reproductive. The researchers concluded that visitor density had a significant effect (p<.001) on the five behaviors recorded. During periods of zero or low visitor density the animals spent significantly more time resting. On days when visitor numbers were high the blackbucks behaved in an aggressive way more frequently. High and extremely high levels of visitor density influenced moving, resting, reproductive, social, and aggressive behaviors. The authors suggest that further studies should examine the kinds of behaviors exhibited by guests, which can impact the stress of the animals.

Major Findings

  • High visitor density impacts the stress level of blackbucks.
  • High numbers of visitors influences their moving, resting, reproductive and aggressive behaviors.

Further Research

Further research should examine the behavior of zoo guests on the stress levels of the animals.

Summary by Kyle Hull




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