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Evaluating the Effectiveness of Education in Zoos

Spooner, Sarah Louise (2017) Evaluating the Effectiveness of Education in Zoos. PhD thesis, University of York.

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Increasingly, research has demonstrated that traditional zoo-only sites are meeting their overall mission to convey biodiversity and conservation messages to visitors. However, robust evaluations of specific zoo experiences and studies from non-traditional zoo settings such as theme park zoos are missing from the literature. This thesis investigates the impact of specific zoo experiences and tests whether a combined theme park and zoo is also able to meet the zoo mission. Theme park zoos represent the extreme entertainment end of the zoo spectrum, thus test whether learning can occur in commercialised entertainment settings. Data were collected at a combined theme park and zoo during peak season, May to October, 2013 through to 2016. A combination of paired and unpaired pre-post-surveys were collected to test the immediate effects of educational experiences and the overall impact of zoo visits. A single theme park zoo visit was found to lead to significant increases in visitors’ animal knowledge. In contrast, such a visit did not impact on conservation attitudes. Information signs were found to be the most important source of animal and conservation information for visitors. Additionally, whilst live animal shows effectively conveyed animal facts, the use of ‘trick’ behaviours appeared to cause confusion and hindered learning. Non-animal shows, which used theatre and puppets, were found to be a successful alternative to live animal shows and effectively conveyed animal and conservation information to both adults and children. This research indicates that zoos should provide information at a range of levels from factual knowledge through to practical opportunities for conservation behaviours. Currently, theme park zoos effectively convey factual information, thereby fulfilling part of the zoo mission. However, knowledge alone is not enough to influence visitor behaviour. For theme park zoos to meet the aims of modern zoo practice they must model sustainable behaviours and help visitors engage with conservation issues and solutions.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of York > Environment (York)
Depositing User: Miss Sarah Louise Spooner
Date Deposited: 11 Jun 2018 09:35
Last Modified: 11 Jun 2018 09:35
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/20370

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