Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Science


Natural Resource Ecology and Management

First Advisor

Rebecca Christoffel


Globally, the pet trade plays an active role in society even though many of the species involved are not always ideal pets. Zoos and other institutes may inadvertently contribute to the problem by housing animals in exhibits which may mislead the public about an animal's suitability as a pet. The primary goal of this research is to test whether visitor perceptions of the suitability of Geochelone elegans (Indian star tortoise) as a pet were affected by exhibit design. G. elegans was displayed in two different exhibits; a naturalistic exhibit design and a tank design. After setting up the contrasting exhibits in the Blank Park Zoo's Discovery Center, zoo visitors were interviewed about G. elegans and its suitability as a pet after visiting one of the two test exhibits. Exhibit design did influence visitor perceptions of the space requirements of G. elegans (p <0.001). Visitors viewing the exhibit treatment were more likely to agree with the statement "Indian star tortoise need an area the size of a child's bedroom to live in", while visitors viewing the tank treatment were more likely to disagree. Consideration such as cost (p = 0.063) and ease of care (p = 0.065) influenced whether or not a visitor perceived the Indian star tortoise as a suitable pet. However, other factors such as age (p = 0.034) and whether or not a visitor had children or grandchildren (p = 0.032) were associated with whether or not a visitor would consider G. elegans as a potential pet. Visitors in the age group 30-49 who had children were more likely to answer "no" when asked whether or not they would consider getting a tortoise as a pet.


Copyright Owner

Shannon Marie McKinney



File Format


File Size

37 pages