Zoo Education

Scientific Papers

The influence of animal welfare accreditation programmes on zoo visitor perceptions of the welfare of zoo animals (Warsaw & Sayers, 2020)

August 12, 2020

Abstract: In recent years, formal accreditation programmes based upon contemporary animal welfare science have been developed to assess animal welfare within zoos. Animal welfare is an important responsibility for any zoo, but does accreditation provide everyday zoo visitors with assurance about the welfare of the animals they encounter? To answer this question, a survey of visitors to Wellington Zoo in New Zealand was conducted. Survey participants were asked to respond to a variety of animal welfare scenarios involving zoo animals. Scenarios were designed using the Five Domains Model which the Zoo and Aquarium Association (ZAA) use to develop criteria for accreditation standards. Results show animal welfare accreditation programmes assured survey participants about the welfare of animals in the zoo. While this is affirming for those zoos participating in accreditation programmes, the research also found that survey participants were not aware of zoo accreditation programmes. As animal welfare is a core tenet of the social license to operate any zoo, the principal recommendation of this study is for both zoos and accrediting organisations to significantly increase marketing and communication of their accreditation programmes to their communities.

Photo credit: Wellington Zoo

Evaluating an in-school zoo education programme: an analysis of attitudes and learning (Counsell et la., 2020)

May 12, 2020

Abstract: In 2020 the Convention on Biological Diversity will deliver the post-2020 global biodiversity framework.
The promotion of conservation and biodiversity knowledge will form at least one of the targets set
out in this framework. According to the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) zoos and aquariums receive around 700 million annual visits, making them well placed to contribute towards these targets. The scope of the field of zoo and aquarium education research has greatly increased over recent years demonstrating the educational value of visits. This study evaluated the impact of an in-school repeat-engagement zoo education programme provided by the Safari Rangers of Chester Zoo, UK. A pre- and post-programme survey design was used to measure conservation understanding, knowledge of pro-conservation behaviours and conservation attitudes. In total, 445 students from seven participating schools were surveyed. The results show an increase in both conservation understanding and in knowledge of pro-conservation behaviour between the pre- and post-programme surveys.
Participating students showed an aggregate increase of 60.5% in their conservation understanding, and a 24% increase in their knowledge of pro-conservation behaviours. Those surveyed also demonstrated a positive change in attitude towards conservation self-efficacy. This study demonstrates that repeat-engagement in-school zoo-education programmes can successfully deliver desired learning outcomes, adding to the body of evidence that demonstrates the valuable role that zoos can play in raising the level of conservation knowledge amongst school-aged children. 


Photo credit: Chester Zoo

Ethical considerations when conservation research involves people (Brittain et al., 2020)

March 11, 2020

Abstract: Social science is becoming increasingly important in conservation, with more studies involving methodologies that collect data from and about people. Conservation science is a normative and applied discipline designed to support and inform management and practice. Poor research practice risks harming participants, researchers, and can leave negative legacies. Often, those at the forefront of field‐based research are early‐career researchers, many of whom enter their first research experience ill‐prepared for the ethical conundrums they may face. Here, we draw on our own experiences as early‐career researchers to illuminate how ethical challenges arise during conservation research that involves human participants. Specifically, we discuss ethical review procedures, conflicts of values, and power relations, and provide broad recommendations on how to navigate ethical challenges when they arise during research. We encourage greater engagement with ethical review processes and highlight the pressing need to develop ethical guidelines for conservation research that involves human participants.

Photo credit: San Diego Zoo

Threat or treat for tourism organizations? The Copenhagen Zoo social media storm (Rydén et al., 2020)

January 29, 2020

Abstract: Social media have emerged as a game changer for tourism by empowering consumers to collectively approve or oppose organizational behaviors. When consumers rise against organizations, social media storms (SMSs) can be an outcome. This research proposes a conceptual framework to help tourism organizations understand SMSs and to guide more effective decision making. Contextualized by a case study of the Copenhagen Zoo, it is shown how and why SMSs are an expression of negative consumer empowerment that brings challenges as well as opportunities. As demonstrated, an SMS can lead to a helix for value creation for the organization, consumers, and society.

Photo credit: Copenhagen Zoo

Assessing the effect of zoo exhibit design on visitor engagement and attitudes towards conservation (Moss & Pavitt, 2019)

November 18, 2019

Abstract: Modern zoos claims to be a platform for conservation education and zoos attempt to educate visitors using textual interpretation, public talks and engaging exhibit design. Walk-through exhibits aim to maximise the educational potential of a zoo visit by providing a unique, immersive experience that can enhance visitor connection with a species. This study assesses visitor engagement with walk-through zoo exhibits in comparison to traditional exhibits, and explores the role that educators and volunteers play in encouraging visitor engagement. Covert visitor observations were used to quantify dwell times and categorise conversational data at different exhibits. Species at walk-through exhibits elicited more comments related to surface level and deeper level information when compared to species at traditional exhibits (p<0.001). Similarly, a higher number of surface level and deeper level comments were made when a visitor had engaged with a zoo ranger or volunteer (p<0.001). Dwell times were over six times longer at walk-through exhibits; higher dwell times were significantly related to higher numbers of surface level comments (R2 =0.433) and deeper level comments (R2 =0.361). By conducting visitor surveys pre- visit and post-visit to a walk through exhibit, we found some significant changes in visitor attitudes towards pro-conservation themes, but little evidence that visitors had learned something new from the exhibit. Overall, walk-through exhibits that utilise educators or volunteers can enhance visitor engagement with a species, although further research into additional interventions is necessary to determine how this engagement may develop into pro-conservation knowledge and actions.

Photo credit: Chester Zoo

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