Beauty ranking of mammalian species kept in the Prague Zoo: does beauty of animals increase the respondents’ willingness to protect them?
Aesthetic preferences for animals correspond with the species’ presence in the worldwide zoos and influence the conservation priorities. Here, we investigated the relationship between the willingness of respondents to protect mammals and some attributed characteristics such as their aesthetic beauty. Further, several methodological aspects of measuring mammalian beauty were assessed. Animal beauty was associated not only with the respondents’ willingness to protect the species but also with its attributed dangerousness and usefulness. We found that the most preferred animals were carnivores and ungulates, whilst smaller species of rodents and afrosoricids were unpopular. The main characteristics determining that an animal will be ranked as beautiful were complex fur pattern and body shape. We demonstrated that the position of mammalian species along the ‘beauty’ axis is surprisingly stable, no matter the form (illustrations vs photographs), context of stimulus presentation (several number of stimuli per family vs one randomly selected species per family), or the method of beauty evaluation (relative order vs Likert’s scale).
KeywordsMammals Beauty Animal conservation Preferences Human perception Zoo
We thank Dr. Jakub Polák for critical reading of an earlier version of the manuscript. We thank all of the respondents who kindly participated in this project. We also thank the Prague Zoo, which allowed us to study the aesthetic preferences of the zoo visitors and provided us with the photographs of some of the tested species, and we thank Martina Nacházelová for painting some of the rarest species.
Conceived and designed the research: EL, DF, and MB; performed the research: PP and MJ; analysed the data: DF, PP, MJ, and SR; wrote the paper: EL, DF, PP, and SR.
This work was supported by GAUK nos. 1310414 and 346315 and GAČR (Czech Science Foundation) grant no. 17-15991S; personal costs of MJ and SR were partially covered by the project “Sustainability for the National Institute of Mental Health“, under grant number LO1611, with a financial support from the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports of the Czech Republic under the NPU I program.
Compliance with ethical standards
All the respondents agreed to participate in the project voluntarily. Each subject provided a written informed consent and additional information about his/her gender, age, residence, education, parenthood, and pet keeping. The authors declare that the project was approved by the Institutional Review Board (IRB), Faculty of Sciences, Charles University in Prague, approval no. 2013/7.
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
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