The Relationship between Viewing Area Size and Visitor Behavior in an Immersive Asian Elephant Exhibit

Andrew Moss, David Francis, Maggie Esson
2008 Visitor Studies  
Immersive exhibits are increasingly popular in zoos, being seen as benefiting both animals and visitors. Multiple, discreet viewing areas are one of the key features of immersive zoo exhibits. Small, discreet viewing areas afford the visitor a very personal and intimate experience and may promote an affiliative response between the visitor and the animals on display, thus enhancing the immersive experience. This investigation sought to determine the effect of these viewing areas on visitor
more » ... eas on visitor behavior, particularly in exhibits where the same animals could be viewed from different-sized viewing areas. This study in the Elephants of the Asian Forest exhibit at Chester Zoo, used unobtrusive visitor tracking to investigate how visitors behave at the exhibit's different-sized viewing areas. The results show that visitors are much more likely to stop, and stay for longer, at the largest viewing areas. Furthermore, there appears to be a proportional increase in visitor interest with increasing viewing area size. These findings have implications for zoo exhibit designers, particularly on the order in which viewing areas should be positioned. Approaches to zoo enclosure design have changed significantly over time and have been classified, by Coe (1996a), into three generations. The first generation enclosures of the 19th century were barren, barred exhibits (Coe, 1996a) . In the early 1900s Carl Hagenbeck began exhibiting animals in panoramic, moated enclosures with animals grouped by geographic arrangement rather than taxonomically. Coe (1996a) saw this attempt to display animals in replications of their natural habitats as a key part of the progression from the first to the second generation of exhibit design. The term landscape immersive was first coined by Jones, Coe, and Paulson (1976) to describe the new style of naturalistic exhibits being created for the renovation of the Woodlands Park Zoo, Seattle, Washington. The immersive exhibit is one of the seminal components of what Coe (1996a) called the "third generation" of exhibit design. The three generations of exhibit design have brought with them changes in the philosophy of how people view animals. In first-generation exhibits, animals were exhibited
doi:10.1080/10645570801938418 fatcat:uw5li354jbchzm2c54tckn3h4q