Are zoos and aquariums the place to learn about biodiversity?
On the occasion of World Wildlife Day, the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA), in association with Chester Zoo and a researcher at the University of Warwick, publishes a report of its global survey evaluating educational impacts on zoo and aquarium visitors (“A Global Evaluation of Biodiversity Literacy in Zoo and Aquarium Visitors”).
As a result, visits to zoos and aquariums clearly showed a positive impact. Dr Eric Jensen (Associate Professor, University of Warwick) said: “This study offers the first large-scale international evidence that zoos and aquariums can effectively engage their visitors with biodiversity. This question of educational impact has loomed over zoos and aquariums for decades. Our findings indicate that zoos and aquariums are right to tout their potential as sites for engagement with wildlife, although some of these attractions are clearly more effective than others.”
On 20 December 2013, the United Nations General Assembly decided to proclaim 3 March as World Wildlife Day. The idea is to celebrate and raise awareness of the world’s wild fauna and flora.
The so-called Aichi Biodiversity Target 1 of the United Nations Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 states that “by 2020, at the latest, people are aware of the values of biodiversity and the steps they can take to conserve and use it sustainably”. WAZA is partnering with this United Nations initiative, as this target is closely aligned to one of the zoo and aquarium community’s key functions – that of education providers on the topic of biodiversity conservation.
The survey’s findings are based on the largest and most international study of zoo and aquarium visitors ever conducted worldwide; in total, more than 6,000 visitors to 30 zoos and aquariums around the globe participated in the study. This large-scale impact evaluation study was conducted using a pre- and post-visit repeated-measures survey design to evaluate biodiversity understanding and knowledge of actions to help protect biodiversity in zoo and aquarium visitors.
The study’s main findings are:
– Aggregate biodiversity understanding and knowledge of actions to help protect biodiversity both significantly increased over the course of zoo and aquarium visits.
– There was an increase from pre-visit (69.8%) to post-visit (75.1%) in respondents demonstrating at least some positive evidence of biodiversity understanding.
– Similarly, there was an increase from pre-visit (50.5%) to post-visit (58.8%) in respondents that could identify a pro-biodiversity action that could be achieved at an individual level.
This study provides the most compelling evidence to date that zoo and aquarium visits can contribute to increasing the number of people who understand biodiversity and know actions they can take to help protect biodiversity.
“The results of this study underscore the potential role of zoos and aquariums in achieving progress towards the goal articulated in Aichi Biodiversity Target 1. Of course, far more can and must be done; but we now have a strong baseline from which to measure our progress. Efforts like WAZA’s “Biodiversity is Us” campaign, and the many interpretive programmes of individual zoos and aquariums, can now be developed and implemented with the affirmation that they potentially can make a difference for biodiversity”, says Lee Ehmke, President of WAZA.
For more details, see the report “A Global Evaluation of Biodiversity Literacy in Zoo and Aquarium Visitors” attached (http://www.waza.org/en/site/conservation/un-decade-on-biodiversity/visitor-survey).