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The role of zoos in modern society — A comparison of zoos' reported priorities and what visitors believe they should be

Roe, K., McConney, A. and Mansfield, C.F. (2014) The role of zoos in modern society — A comparison of zoos' reported priorities and what visitors believe they should be. Anthrozoos: A Multidisciplinary Journal of The Interactions of People & Animals, 27 (4). pp. 529-541.

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Modern zoos are required to fulfill a growing number of responsibilities including scientific research, wildlife conservation, public recreation, and education. With so many roles and responsibilities and limited funds, zoos have to prioritize their activities in relation to their own specified goals, objectives, and mission statements. Given their desire to nurture community relations and educational opportunities, it is important to determine the extent to which zoos are prioritizing their activities, according to visitors' expectations. This paper presents empirical research of a two staged mixed-methods investigation into zoo priorities from both zoos' and visitors' perspectives. The first stage involved an online questionnaire to which more than 190 zoos across 52 countries reported their priorities and activities. We then undertook in-depth case studies in nine institutions, enabling direct observation of each site within its context, including face-to-face visitor interviews. Our research contrasts the priority given to zoo activities from each perspective and indicates that educating visitors, including school children, is the highest priority activity from the zoos' perspective and that of their visitors. The findings also show that visitors place high value on learning about actions they can take to help conservation efforts. Some inconsistencies between zoos' and visitors' priorities were also evident, such as the different emphasis placed on viewing endemic species, and zoos being a place for people to relax and socialize. The implications of these findings are discussed.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Education
Publisher: Berg Publishers
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