Turns Out Kids Do Actually Learn Something From Zoos - At Least From Good Ones
As someone deeply concerned about animal welfare issues and animal rights, zoos have long not set well with me. However much I don't like to see animals confined in cramped enclosures, provided the conditions are adequate for the animals (and I'm well aware that many are not, including some famous ones in the US) I begrudging accept that many zoos do genuinely good conservation work for wild animals and visitors to zoos come away learning something. It may be an unfortunate situation, but some good does come out of it. But that's always just been my intuition on the subject.
Now, a new study backs up that intuition. Kids going to zoos is demonstrably a learning experience.
Based on survey of visitors between the ages of 7-14 to the London Zoo, Mongabay reports that slightly over half of them showed improved knowledge in at least one of the following three areas: Conservation knowledge, concern for endangered species, desire to participate in conservation efforts.What's more, 39% of kids said they didn't care about endangered species before attending the zoo but did so afterwards.
How long that concern lasts and how well it translates into action is likely another story.
As Mongabay's Jeremy Hance rightly points out, the experience at the London Zoo may not always be comparable to less well run zoos. Hance says,
The London Zoo is generally considered among the best in Britain, and many may not live up to its focus on education and conservation. It is also the world's oldest zoo established for scientific purpose.
The Central Park Zoo, photo: Mat McDermott
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