Why do we educate?
Zoos educate for several reasons:
- It is a legal requirement, specified in the Secretary of State’s Standards of Modern Zoo Practice and the EU Zoos Directive (EC/1999/22); every zoo licenced premises must provide certain information to visitors, and be committed to educating their visitors.
- There is demand for education in zoos. Teachers wish to use the unique resources in zoos to teach children about the natural world and visitors want to learn about the animals. Zoos teach because visitors want to learn!
- Good zoos also regard education as an opportunity to improve public engagement with the natural world, generate love and respect for the animals which they look after and inspire conservation efforts in the wider community.
Conservation breeding programmes may save a species; conservation education may save the world.
Most people realise that good zoos are committed to conservation and are often involved in managed conservation breeding programmes.
However, many people are unaware that the educational output of a good zoo is just as important as direct conservation actions. Modern zoos seek to promote greater understanding of the natural world, and seek to engage visitors with nature and conservation.
Education has been a part of zoos since their earliest days. They have always displayed species which visitors would never otherwise have a chance to see, and allowed scientists to study a wide range of exotic and unusual species.
This remit has expanded over the decades, and modern zoos aim to teach visitors about the natural habitat, biological adaptations and conservation status of animals. Modern urban society is often dislocated from the natural world; zoos offer a way to forge a new relationship with nature, based on understanding and respect.
Zoos educate because it is through education that we can have the greatest impact on the natural world. We can send essential conservation messages out into the wider population, carried by our visitors, reaching the audiences that will determine the fate of threatened habitats and species.
Through inspiring interest and teaching we can improve public understanding of the natural world. Through education we can become not only the 102 BIAZA collections working together for conservation, but the 25 million people who visit BIAZA collections working to save the world’s wildlife.