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Dec 6, 2012

Zoo Visitors: Is Current Knowledge and Understanding about Animal Biology Enough?

Do zoo visitors need zoology knowledge to understand about biodiversity conservation?

This study explores the current knowledge and understanding about animal biology of zoo visitors and investigates whether that knowledge influences their ability to understand how human activity affects biodiversity. Public understanding of the science that underlies conservation issues is important because it can aid informed decision making. Zoos’ education programmes can develop visitors’ cognitive understanding in the fields of animal biology and biodiversity conservation by building on their existing knowledge and by challenging and correcting misconceptions.

A survey of the knowledge and understanding of groups of zoo visitors about a variety of topics in animal biology was carried out. The study found that the knowledge and understanding of zoo visitors regarding basic animal biology is fairly secure but that their ideas about more complex concepts, such as ecological interdependence and physiological needs  are unsophisticated and, at times, confused. Visitors found some topics to be particularly challenging, and some common misconceptions have been identified. However in other topics they have shown their understanding to be greater than would perhaps be expected from the existing literature.  The findings enabled a modified version of the Conservation Triangle proposed by Tunnicliffe (1999) to be developed that illustrates the knowledge and understanding deficit of zoo visitors via a hierarchy of biological concepts. Furthermore, findings suggest that zoo visitors are reasonably well informed about the effect that human activities can have on the natural world.


Isle of Wight Zoo

COMMENDATION (Small Collection) received in BIAZA Awards 2012 for Best Research Project

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