O’Malley, M., Woods, J. M., Byrant, J. et al. 2021. How is Western lowland gorilla (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) behavior and physiology impacted by 360 degree visitor viewing access? Animal Behavior and Cognition 8(4), 468–480.

The effect visitors may have on the welfare of professionally managed animals is vital to consider. The present study utilized an experimental approach to examine how 360° visitor viewing access (i.e., viewing from all sides of the habitat) impacts the behavior and physiology of Western lowland gorillas (Gorilla gorilla gorilla, N = 7). Data collection included behavioral observations and obtaining fecal samples to examine physiological indicators of welfare. The study included a baseline period observing the gorillas’ behavior and physiology during the typical 360° visitor viewing access and a treatment period examining the same indicators but reducing viewing access by approximately 70%. Behavioral states, behavioral events, and hormone data were compared across conditions using Wilcoxon signed-rank tests. Restricted viewing did not impact social or solitary grooming (as a state behavior), social or solitary play, foraging, stereotypies, locomotion, inactivity, or behavioral diversity. However, restricted viewing significantly reduced solitary grooming events, fecal glucocorticoid metabolites, and the ratio of glucocorticoid metabolites to dehydroepiandrosterone metabolites. These results suggest that 360° visitor viewing access may have an impact on the welfare of gorillas. However, further research is necessary to thoroughly understand the influence of allowing 360° visitor viewing on behavior and its possible interaction with variables of the zoo environment.