Effects of visitor number and nature of interaction on the behavior and welfare of tigers at Uganda Wildlife Conservation Education Center (UWEC)
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Animals at zoos are thought to be affected by visitor number and visitor interactions as their various exhibits. This in particular the non-social species. Due to presence of visitors at the zoo accompanied with various interactions, their impact on solitary species like felids has to be investigated and established to guide future guidelines and policy making. This study examined how visitor number and nature of visitor interaction on the behavior of the two tigers at Uganda Wildlife Conservation Education Center. Over the course of 4 weeks, the visitor number and the nature of interactions while at the tiger exhibit was recorded for 30 minutes daily at a one minute interval. In the same period, the tigers’ behavioral responses were also recorded. Analyses for the relationship between the behavior exhibited by each tiger and the visitor number and nature of visitor interaction were done separately and in both scenarios the relationship was statistically significant. The findings of this study suggest that visitor number and nature of visitor interactions had an impact on both tigers because when the visitor numbers were high, they both exhibited more of active behaviors 180 (59%) and 216 (70.8%) instances of active behavior and when the visitor numbers were low, the tigers exhibited more of passive 151 (67.7%) and 164 (73.5% instances of passive behavior behaviors for Yura and Brown respectively. However Brown was observed to be more alert than Yura when the visitors showed active interaction s while at the exhibit. So further studies are needed to establish why the female tiger responded to this stimuli than the male tiger.