Globally, many species are threatened by habitat loss and are impacted by climate change due to human activities. According to the IUCN Red List, nearly 9000 animal species are now endangered or critically endangered. Yet, humans are largely ignorant to the impact they have on the environment due to lack of effective sustainability education. Currently, one of the most practical ways to connect with our global natural world is by visiting a local zoo. Zoos engage people with numerous species that they would otherwise never have the opportunity to see. Environmental education at zoos has come to address issues such as sustainability, personal green habits, and global climate change. Given the important role of zoos in sustainability education, there is a surprising lack of research on the topic. Due to its innovative nature, the research shown in this study acts as a pilot study set to gauge the impact of zoos on sustainability and climate change perspectives. This article investigates the extent to which adult survey respondents believe their current sustainability behaviors and their perceptions of global climate change have been influenced by their childhood visits to zoos and the environmental education topics learned during these visits. To investigate the long-term impact that zoos have on common sustainability behavior, a survey of 136 university students from various academic fields was conducted. The analysis found that 76% of respondents believe they act sustainably in their daily lives through actions such as sustainable shopping and recycling, with only 35% of individuals indicating that they learned their sustainable behaviors at zoos. Yet, 65% of respondents indicated that they believe zoos impact their overall level of environmental concern, primarily regarding knowledge of animal welfare and endangered species. Results suggest that individuals who are very concerned about climate change spent time at zoos, more than just one annual visit, and those zoo visits encourage global sustainability learning for the individual. This study suggests that zoos should expand visitor engagement through environmental education that encourages meaningful sustainability behavior and climate change knowledge.
Duram, Leslie A. and Taylor, Josie A. "Linking Personal Experience to Global Concern: How Zoo Visits Affect Sustainability Behavior and Views of Climate Change." Sustainability 13, No. 13 (Jun 2021): 7117. doi:10.3390/su13137117.