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Man and beast under microscope
29th November 2019

By Robert Ellis


Professor Vicky Melfi of Hartpury University

The complex relationship between zookeepers and animals in their care has been highlighted by new research.   

The study, ‘You can’t really hug a tiger: Zookeepers and their bonds with animals’, was carried out by Professors Vicky Melfi, from Hartpury University (where the research was conducted), Lynda Birke, from the University of Chester, and Geoff Hosey, from the University of Bolton.

The paper, based on feedback from 14 zookeepers from the UK and New Zealand, explored how they reflected on their experiences with different species they cared for while at the same time ensuring they worked professionally.

Vicky said: “Even if a zookeeper had hand-reared a tiger cub for three months and become ‘close’ to that animal, for instance, they will do whatever’s necessary to maximise conservation outcomes, even if that means the animal is moved to another zoo…

“Hopefully, this report will help give due credit to the professionalism and the level of understanding and care of those working within the zoo industry.”