Zoos and aquariums are in a unique position in that they have a very captive audience who’s frequently young and interested in nature, thus making them susceptible to conservation ideas. Instilling these types of values at a young age can lead to an impactful and long-lasting connectedness with nature. As a result, zoos and aquariums have a great opportunity to change people’s attitudes and the way they view nature when they come to visit. The key is to take advantage of this audience and leave them with a meaningful experience that causes the right kind of reflection. From a conservationist perspective we want visitors thinking back on their day not with the photo they’ve taken or the ride they've experienced but what they learned and how they can incorporate that new knowledge into their lives to preserve these wild elements. It is important to consider that different zoo and aquarium owners and stakeholders have different motivations and oftentimes these may conflict with one another. A very obvious motivation for many is the revenue generated at these places is probably a priority to the managers and owners of these types of facilities. While instilling conservation values may be viewed as a positive outcome for a day spent at one of these places it may not be the most important consideration for the ones determining the types and delivery of the exhibits. Connections to the natural components of these places through educational opportunities, exposure to replica wildlife habitats and physical proximity or even direct contact with the wildlife are ways to further engage visitors. On the contrary, unnecessary barriers and elements to these parks that estrange the guests from the wildlife do much less to promote conservation values. In order to foster more organic experiences at zoos and aquariums, it’s important to understand what motivates the decision makers of these facilities to incorporate connectedness in their parks. The answer will likely be related to profits and marketability so we must then consider how to make this type of experience more desirable for promoters. The opportunities provided by these parks is too valuable to waste when it comes to the potential to instill conservation and sustainable values in the visitors.
Published on 28 October 2018