06 05/06/2017

Impact of a global education campaign

A new study led by Chester Zoo’s conservation social scientist, Andy Moss, reveals the positive impact that education campaigns in zoos and aquariums can have on members of the public.

Published in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, the research demonstrates that a global biodiversity campaign conducted within zoos and aquariums led to an increased level of understanding and knowledge of positive biodiversity actions among visitors.

Visitors looking at black rhino

The researchers from Chester Zoo, the University of Warwick and the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA), carried out a repeated-measures survey of nearly 5,000 visitors to 20 zoos and aquarium located in 14 countries in order to evaluate the impact of the education campaign ‘Biodiversity is Us’ launched by WAZA in May 2014.

Andy Moss tells us more:

World zoos and aquariums are key providers of conservation education programmes. By evaluating a global campaign, such as ‘Biodiversity is Us’, it allows us to understand whether the educational work we are passionate about is having the impacts we want.

Building upon their initial global evaluation1 of the educational impacts of zoos and aquariums on visitors, the team used both pre and post exposure questionnaire surveys to assess the impact of interpretive graphic panels, informative films and an interactive mobile phone application. The study reveals significant increases in the proportion of respondents demonstrating at least some biodiversity understanding (45% pre-visit vs 55% post-visit) and knowledge of actions to help protect biodiversity (48% pre-visit vs 51.9% post-visit) after exposure to the ‘Biodiversity is Us’ graphic panels or films.

Zoo ranger activities in the zoo

Andy Moss continues:

Good quality conservation education is one of the key functions of modern progressive zoos. This study has reaffirmed the positive educational role zoos can have, not just at Chester but all over the globe. The 700 million visits made to world zoos and aquariums each year mean that we can potentially influence a huge global audience with our pro-conservation messages.

Increasing visitors’ exposure to biodiversity information in zoos and aquariums is essential to enhance their understanding of the topic. The use of campaign materials in this study appears to have increased visitors’ knowledge on biodiversity concepts, reaffirming the educative role of zoos and aquariums and proving that their global impact can be enhanced through coordinated public engagement initiatives.

Read more from Andy Moss, the important roles zoos play in informing people about biodiversity conservation and some of the other projects he’s been working on, here.

Impact of a global biodiversity education campaign on zoo and aquarium visitors

Authors: Moss, A., Jensen, E. and Gusset, M. (2017), Impact of a global biodiversity education campaign on zoo and aquarium visitors. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, doi:10.1002/fee.1493

Abstract: Campaigns by zoos, aquariums and other civil society organisations are an important tool for promoting social changes that benefit the environment. Here, we evaluate a global biodiversity education campaign's impact through a repeated-measures survey of nearly 5000 visitors to 20 zoos and aquariums located in 14 countries. By comparing visitors’ pre- and post-visit responses combined across respondents, we found significant aggregate improvements in their biodiversity understanding and their knowledge of actions to help protect biodiversity. Respondents who reported seeing the education campaign's interpretive graphic panels and informative films showed a significantly higher aggregate increase in their understanding of biodiversity and actions to protect it as compared to respondents who did not see the campaign materials. These findings reaffirm the value of education at zoos and aquariums to engage members of the public with biodiversity-related issues. The results also demonstrate that the aggregate impact from such experiences can be enhanced through coordinated public engagement initiatives.

You can read the full paper here.

1 Moss A, Jensen E, Gusset M. 2015. Evaluating the Contribution of Zoos and Aquariums to Aichi Biodiversity Target 1. Conservation Biology 29:537-544.