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Why Zoos Have Animals: Exploring the Complex Pathway from Experiencing Animals to Pro-environmental Behaviors

Why Zoos Have Animals: Exploring the Complex Pathway from Experiencing Animals to Pro-environmental Behaviors

Chapter:
(p.192) Chapter Fifteen Why Zoos Have Animals: Exploring the Complex Pathway from Experiencing Animals to Pro-environmental Behaviors
Source:
The Ark and Beyond
Author(s):
Alejandro GrajalJerry F. LuebkeLisa-Anne DeGregoria Kelly
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226538631.003.0016

Modern zoos and aquariums are at a critical crossroads and confronted with two emerging, intertwined challenges. The first is a “cultural shift challenge” in which rapid worldwide urbanization, socioeconomic, and demographic changes lead to personal detachment from nature. The second is a “relevancy challenge” in which a digital media revolution is rapidly widening public access to information and changing perceptions about animal welfare. We present a hypothesized model of the zoo and aquarium experience in which engagement in pro-environmental behaviors is related to strong and complex relationships among visitors’ predispositions, animal experiences, affective connections, social exchanges, and the designed zoo setting. Based on recent findings along several lines of research, our model leads to recommendations for specific education strategies: 1. Improve visitor outreach and diversity; 2. Facilitate animal experiences and address animal welfare concerns; 3. Encourage visitors’ participation and engagement; and 4. Empower visitors to engage in pro-environmental behaviors. A focus on animal rights, while necessary, does not squarely address the ultimate ethical dilemma of how to engage humans in conservation action. As inspiring and accessible portals to nature, zoos and aquariums can be active players in advancing effective social change toward the relationship between humans and nature.

Keywords:   affective connections, animals, aquarium, conservation action, education, nature, predispositions, pro-environmental behaviors, social change, zoo

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