The Relationship between Popularity and Body Size in Zoo Animals

Source: Paul I. Ward, Nicole Mosberger, Claudia Kistler, Oliver Fischer (1998) Conservation Biolog, Volume 12 Issue 6 Page 1408-1411
Larger animals are more expensive to maintain in zoos than are smaller animals, and they breed at slower rates. Consequently, zoos could potentially contribute more to conservation efforts by ...
concentrating on smaller-bodied species, but they could lose patronage if the zoo's public prefers to see larger species. Therefore, we examined the relationship between the popularity of zoo exhibits and the body sizes of the animals displayed. We measured popularity as the proportion of people passing an exhibit who looked at it for more than 10 seconds and compared popularity to the body size of the animals in the exhibit. We found that exhibits of larger animals were preferred by both adults and children. Children also showed a significant preference for larger groups of mammals. Although larger animals are more expensive to maintain, as estimated from adoption costs, a cost-adjusted measure of popularity still yielded the conclusion that larger animals are more popular, especially with children. It thus may be premature to recommend that zoos concentrate on breeding smaller species to increase their potential contribution to conservation efforts because this would probably result in their exhibits being less popular.