Special Issue "Zoos as a Tool for Re-Connecting People with Nature"

A special issue of Journal of Zoological and Botanical Gardens (ISSN 2673-5636).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 31 December 2021.

Special Issue Editors

Dr. Michel Saint-Jalme
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, Direction Générale Déléguée aux Muséees Jardin et Zoos, 75005 Paris, France
Interests: conservation biology
Dr. Sarah Spooner
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
School of Animal, Rural and Environmental Sciences, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham NG1 4FQ, UK
Interests: conservation education; science communication

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Biodiversity is drastically declining due to human activities. Although behavioural change can protect species and habitats, lack of public interest complicates conservation efforts. One aspect of the biodiversity crisis is the “extinction” of experiences of nature. Some authors have proposed that combined effects of urbanization, biodiversity loss and the Western way of life induce emotional, attitudinal, and behavioral changes, which then affect the importance assigned to nature.

Some research studies have demonstrated the importance of experiencing nature during childhood. Indeed, limited contacts with nature during childhood are suspected to decrease the prominence of environmental concern in adults, but little research effort has focused on the role of attachment to particular natural places in an individual’s relationship with nature more generally. Authors have suggested that zoos and aquariums provide an opportunity as a substitute to nature in an urban context.

The World Association of Zoos and Aquariums reports over 700 million visits a year. Besides their direct conservation mission, this large audience provides zoos an opportunity to provide environmental education. Indeed, research has shown that zoo visits can increase knowledge; however, knowledge alone is not enough. Environmental education is asked to help individuals not only to acquire knowledge but also to eventually adopt environmental behaviors in their everyday lives. Education in a zoo setting has the potential to increase concern and engagement. The opportunity to view an animal in close contact appears to elicit an emotional response and to allow people to strengthen a felt relationship or connection to animals. Evidence from a number of studies suggests that zoos can increase not just concern about the animals that are observed but also a more general environmental concern, encouraging people to make the connection from specific animals to species in general and biodiversity.

In this Special Issue, we encourage authors to propose research articles, meta-analyses, or review articles to explore the potential of zoo visits in promoting long-term engagement with biodiversity and/or in the adoption of pro-conservation behaviors and to contribute to concern about environmental issues or more generally to reconnect to nature.

All manuscripts submitted to this Special Issue will have publication fees fully waived. Please contact the Editorial Office ([email protected]) if you have any questions.

Dr. Michel Saint-Jalme
Dr. Sarah Spooner
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Journal of Zoological and Botanical Gardens is an international peer-reviewed open access quarterly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1000 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • Conservation education
  • Environment education
  • Zoo education
  • Science education
  • Experience of nature
  • Visitor experience
  • Public engagement
  • Connectedness to nature
  • Behavioural change
  • Education evaluation practice
  • How to talk to visitors

Published Papers (6 papers)

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Research

Article
It’s Virtually Summer, Can the Zoo Come to You? Zoo Summer School Engagement in an Online Setting
J. Zool. Bot. Gard. 2021, 2(4), 625-635; https://doi.org/10.3390/jzbg2040045 - 18 Nov 2021
Viewed by 306
Abstract
Zoological collections are rapidly changing from a place of entertainment to centers of education. Many zoological collections run holiday and weekend clubs with activities aimed at inspiring and enthusing the next generation. The COVID-19 pandemic saw zoological collections across the world closing, leading [...] Read more.
Zoological collections are rapidly changing from a place of entertainment to centers of education. Many zoological collections run holiday and weekend clubs with activities aimed at inspiring and enthusing the next generation. The COVID-19 pandemic saw zoological collections across the world closing, leading a need for alternative educational content. Edinburgh Zoo, UK converted their summer school to a virtual provision. This provided a unique opportunity to determine the effectiveness of online zoological education by investigating if engagement levels differ for family groups when education is ‘live’, ‘recorded’ or ‘activity’ based. A total of 235 participants signed up for the Virtual Summer School, which comprised of 46 separate activities. Submissions, comments and polls were coded for content level and activity type. Results show that the overall engagement was higher for the live sessions compared to the recorded content; however, the content level was higher for activities. Content level increased over the week and there was a higher reported nature appreciation at the end of the Virtual Summer School. These findings provided evidence to suggest that online holiday zoo education can engage and inspire and gives insight on how to maximize the engagement and knowledge acquisition when using these online platforms. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Zoos as a Tool for Re-Connecting People with Nature)
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Article
Goal-Setting among Biology Undergraduates during a Free-Choice Learning Experience at a Regional Zoo
J. Zool. Bot. Gard. 2021, 2(4), 610-624; https://doi.org/10.3390/jzbg2040044 - 18 Nov 2021
Viewed by 235
Abstract
Free-choice learning occurs when individuals have autonomy in what and how they learn, and often takes place in informal settings such as zoos. To describe goal-setting and -achievement of biology undergraduates at a regional zoo, we primarily asked: (1) What types of learning [...] Read more.
Free-choice learning occurs when individuals have autonomy in what and how they learn, and often takes place in informal settings such as zoos. To describe goal-setting and -achievement of biology undergraduates at a regional zoo, we primarily asked: (1) What types of learning goals do students set for themselves for a trip to the zoo?; and (2) What activities do students intend to engage in on a zoo trip? Participating students completed the first portion of a goal-setting assessment prior to entering the zoo, which asked students to develop learning and activity goals for themselves. At the conclusion of the zoo trip, students completed the second portion of this survey, which asked whether students achieved their goals, and if not, why. We found that most students devised learning goals related to gaining knowledge and identified passive interactions with animals as activities they hoped to engage in during their trip. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Zoos as a Tool for Re-Connecting People with Nature)
Article
Investigating Visitor Activity on a Safari Drive
J. Zool. Bot. Gard. 2021, 2(4), 576-585; https://doi.org/10.3390/jzbg2040041 - 10 Nov 2021
Viewed by 645
Abstract
Despite increasing studies focusing on the visitor experience in zoological collections, minimal attention has been paid to visitor activity when driving through safari parks. The dwell time of visitors at exhibits within a traditional zoo setting has offered a good method to measure [...] Read more.
Despite increasing studies focusing on the visitor experience in zoological collections, minimal attention has been paid to visitor activity when driving through safari parks. The dwell time of visitors at exhibits within a traditional zoo setting has offered a good method to measure exhibit and species popularity, but studying visitors on a safari drive offers a unique set of challenges, with factors such as road length skewing a basic dwell time measurement. Therefore, the current study proposes that average speed offers a robust means to investigate visitor activity on a safari drive. Average speed was found to be significantly different depending on species exhibited, with primates and felids eliciting slower speeds and bovids and cervids faster speeds. This result broadly mirrors that of traditional zoo studies where primates elicit longer dwell times. Future safari drive studies could help inform decisions made on a safari drive for aspects such a collection planning, drive layout and exhibit design. Harnessing tracking technology, e.g., GPS, alongside more diverse methodologies, such as questionnaires and multi-institutional approaches, would further allow more robust conclusions to be drawn. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Zoos as a Tool for Re-Connecting People with Nature)
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Article
Does an Animal–Visitor Interactive Experience Drive Conservation Action?
J. Zool. Bot. Gard. 2021, 2(3), 473-486; https://doi.org/10.3390/jzbg2030034 - 07 Sep 2021
Viewed by 1487
Abstract
Inspiring visitors to engage in conservation-related behaviour following a zoo visit is a primary objective for most zoos. Animal–visitor interactive (AVI) experiences are often central to this goal. Yet, these interactive experiences are insufficiently evaluated from both the visitors’ and captive animals’ perspectives. [...] Read more.
Inspiring visitors to engage in conservation-related behaviour following a zoo visit is a primary objective for most zoos. Animal–visitor interactive (AVI) experiences are often central to this goal. Yet, these interactive experiences are insufficiently evaluated from both the visitors’ and captive animals’ perspectives. The current study took place at Fota Wildlife Park and involved the construction of an environmental enrichment device during an interactive visitor experience with Sumatran tigers (Panthera tigris sumatrae). It aimed to simultaneously encourage pro-conservation behaviour in visitors and promote animal welfare. Visitors (n = 51) completed a survey, observed the tigers’ behaviour and made a pledge to help tigers in the wild after completion of the AVI. Tiger behaviour was simultaneously observed by a trained researcher using occurrence or non-occurrence sampling, which found no indication that tiger welfare was compromised during the activity and was likely enhanced by engaging with the enrichment. Additionally, visitors observed a range of tigers’ behaviours. The results indicated that some visitors (8%) had continued with their pledge six weeks after the experience, and most visitors exhibited a high level of knowledge and a positive attitude towards tigers. The use of enrichment during AVIs may be a positive link between the visitor experience and animal welfare. These results can be used to guide AVIs in zoos which aim to connect people with nature and drive pro-conservation behaviour in visitors. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Zoos as a Tool for Re-Connecting People with Nature)
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Article
Exploring the Impact of Educational Quizzes and Stamp Collecting Trails on Zoo Visitor Learning and Exhibit Observation
J. Zool. Bot. Gard. 2021, 2(3), 445-452; https://doi.org/10.3390/jzbg2030032 - 20 Aug 2021
Viewed by 698
Abstract
Visitors observe diverse animals during zoo visits and learn more about animals by reading information boards that provide conservation education on animal behavior and habitats. This study revealed differences in effects between reading and understanding during stamp collection and a quiz game focused [...] Read more.
Visitors observe diverse animals during zoo visits and learn more about animals by reading information boards that provide conservation education on animal behavior and habitats. This study revealed differences in effects between reading and understanding during stamp collection and a quiz game focused on “animal observations” and “perception of information boards”. Stamp collection and the quiz game were both effective for reading and observing. These were interesting techniques for learning about various captive species. The quiz game that urged observing target species and reading information boards was found to be a more effective tool to learn about the ecology and conservation of captive species. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Zoos as a Tool for Re-Connecting People with Nature)
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Article
Assessing the Impacts of Engaging with a Touch Table on Safari Park Visitors
J. Zool. Bot. Gard. 2021, 2(3), 370-381; https://doi.org/10.3390/jzbg2030026 - 14 Jul 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 942
Abstract
Modern zoos are increasingly viewed as educational facilities, with informal education programmes attempting to engage with visitors through a wide variety of methods. A ‘touch table’ consists of two collapsible tables which display a variety of artefacts to the public. This study investigated [...] Read more.
Modern zoos are increasingly viewed as educational facilities, with informal education programmes attempting to engage with visitors through a wide variety of methods. A ‘touch table’ consists of two collapsible tables which display a variety of artefacts to the public. This study investigated visitor engagement with touch tables alongside types of conversations being initiated by visitors. Covert observations recorded the type of groups visiting, their dwell time, perceived engagement level and the types of interactions and conversations they were initiating at the touch table. Dwell time was affected by the season, member of staff present, type of group visiting the touch table and engagement level of the group. Engagement level was also affected by group type. Longer average dwell time and higher engagement levels were displayed at a long-established touch table location, whereas more visitors engaged at the touch table when it was at a new location with predicted high footfall. Here, 68.3% of visitors initiated ‘surface level’ conversation, 27.2% initiated ‘deeper level’ conversation and 89.6% initiated ‘other’ conversation. This study resulted in touch table offerings being adapted to further increase their effectiveness as an informal education tool and to suggests ways in which touch tables can continue in a post COVID-19 world. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Zoos as a Tool for Re-Connecting People with Nature)
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