British Zoo Bans Guests From Wearing Animal Prints, Saying it Confuses Animals

PHOTO: London theme park bans animal print clothing

A zoo resort in England is taking a rare step in enforcing guest fashion by banning animal prints, which they say confuse some of the more than 1,000 animals on its grounds.

Chessington World of Adventures Resort, about 17 miles southwest of London, announced a "zero-tolerance ban" on animal-print clothing at its zoo. The resort company says the ban the prints can cause reactions among the rhinos and giraffes at its off-road safari attraction Zufari, which opened in March, and other animals around the resort.

The zoo at Chessington World of Adventures Resort was first opened in 1931 as an exotic private animal collection.

The resort said it has bouncers to enforce the rule around the entire resort to "avoid confusion amongst the lions and tigers and other animals."

Guests who wear animal print will be supplied with Chessington clothing when going on Zufari, the resort said.

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Banned prints at Chessington World of Adventures Resort include: zebra, giraffe, leopard, cheetah, tiger, spotted hyena, striped hyena, and African wild dog.

Robert Hilsenroth, executive director of American Association of Zoo Veterinarians, said there could be truth to Chessington's claims, and that the ban may not just be a publicity stunt.

Hilsenroth said he does not have knowledge of scientific evidence of an animal medical condition, but that prey animals recognize certain colors and patterns in predators.

"A leopard print, as an example, might excite some gazelles, because they recognize inherently that they should avoid them," he said.

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Hilsenroth said he has not heard of other large zoos in the U.S. implementing a ban on animal prints.

"I can guarantee that every zoo in the world is going to start looking at this," he said.

Hilsenroth said zoos might observe whether animals prints cause undue stress in behavioral changes or cortisol levels in feces.

Alan Sironen, board member of the Zoological Association of America, an accrediting body for zoological parks, said he agrees with Hilsenroth that this announcement is not just a publicity stunt.

"Within our organization, we think the welfare of the animals is paramount," Sironen said. "Not being there, we can't gauge what that animal is doing when it sees that print. It's possible that animals had an experience with a visitor or during an early part of its life."

Sironen said most zoos typically don't have a dress code other than to protect the safety of guests, such as particular shoes.

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