Giraffe at Paignton Zoo
A University of Plymouth academic is among the contributors to a new set of guidelines that aims to help zoos effectively evaluate the interactions between visitors and their animals.
Dr Joanna Newbolt has worked closely over a number of years with the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA), the professional body that represents zoos and aquariums in Britain and Ireland.
She is currently a member of BIAZA’s Animal Welfare Working Group, which enables her to work alongside zoo staff and other academics to support member zoos and aquariums in all areas of animal welfare.
The group has previously produced a toolkit designed to ensure zoos can achieve and maintain the highest possible welfare standards.
Its members have now compiled a new Guidelines for Visitor Animal Experiences Assessment, which provides advice for zoos and aquariums on the best ways to evaluate encounters between visitors and their animals.
Zoos and aquariums provide an environment where visitors can encounter animals that they may not be able to see in the wild, something that has been shown can foster and enhance pro-conservation behaviours.
It is hoped the new document, accessible to BIAZA members through the organisation’s website, will help ensure these encounters are managed and assessed in a suitable and consistent manner.
The new guidelines align closely with Dr Newbolt’s research, and she has spent many years studying the factors that can influence patterns of zoo animal behaviour.

Our knowledge of animal welfare is ever-increasing and it is important for organisations such as BIAZA to provide guidance documents to share current and evidence-based welfare knowledge. My own research has shown how the timing of activities, such as feeding or public events, can influence patterns of animal sleep or anticipatory behaviour. I’ve also studied the effects of zoo animal encounters on visitor learning, attitudes and conservation behaviour. Elements of this work have been factored into the new guidelines, and I am very pleased that my expertise and knowledge can now contribute to the enhancement of animal welfare in zoos.

Joanna NewboltJoanna Newbolt
Lecturer in Applied Animal Welfare


Animal Behaviour Research Group

Find our more about the University's work to studying why and how animals behave the way they do, and the implications for welfare and conservation.
Amur tiger named Vladimir

MSc Zoo and Aquarium Conservation Biology

Are you passionate about animal conservation and welfare and keen to shape the zoos and aquariums of the future? Our unique programme is the first of its kind in the world. Study factors affecting animal husbandry and breeding programmes within the context of international zoo management and collaboration. Our partnership with Paignton Zoo gives you access to their connections, research and expertise – so you’re primed to make a difference.
Ring-Tailed Lemur, Paignton Zoo