Odunlami Samuel Sunday; Osumenya Vincent Ugorji
Department of Forestry and Wildlife Management, University of Port Harcourt, Nigeria
|Article history: |
Received: 22.07.2021 Accepted: 7.09.2021 Published: 31.10.2021
Education programme Impacts
|Zoo education programmes have both positive and negative impacts on zoo visitors. The paper assessed the impact of zoo education programmes on zoo visitors in three selected zoos in Nigeria. A set of structured questionnaires was purposively administered to one hundred visitors in each zoo who have paid at least a visit previously to each of the zoos, under the pre-test and post-test research design. Data obtained were analyzed by descriptive and inferential statistics. Results of zoo visitors’ pre-test and post-test on conservation knowledge/awareness shows that parameter such as “I am part of the solutions to nature’s problems” was negative in PH Zoo, positive in UI Zoo and negative in Kano Zoo. The t-test result shows there are significant differences in pre-test and post-test scores of tourists’ knowledge about the functions of zoos in PH Zoo (-4.468, P<0.05), -2.006, P<0.05in UI Zoo and -5.391, P<0.05 in Kano Zoo. There are significant differences in pre-test and post-test scores of tourists’ conservation knowledge (8.262, P < 0.05) in PH Zoo and -3.981, P < 0.05 in UI Zoo. Kruskal-Wallis’ result shows that there are significant differences in tourists’ test scores for knowledge about the functions of zoos (X2 = 49.830, P < 0.05) and conservation knowledge (X2= 65.716, P < 0.05) in the three zoos. It is imperative that the content of zoo education programmes and the method of delivery be improved in order to strengthen the positive impacts of zoo conservation education on zoo visitors. |
Zoo’s conservation education programmes have been applauded as powerful instruments for entrenching conservation knowledge in zoo visitors as well as creating awareness about conservation efforts and initiatives by different global biodiversity conservation organizations and institutions (MacDonald et al., 2016). The potential of zoos to educate and influencing millions of people to be actively involved in wildlife conservation efforts is huge (Zimmerman, 2010), and this is particularly due to the fact that over 700 million people visit global zoos and aquariums annually (Moss et al., 2014).
Zoo’s conservation education programmes have been argued to have inspired many zoo visitors into active conservation actions at halting global biodiversity loss (WAZA (2005; Counsell, et al., 2020). For example, the San Diego Zoo offers, educational tours, field trips, summer camps, and many more education-related activities to visitors (San Diego Zoo, 2017).
However, the effectiveness of zoo education programmes in actively promoting conservation knowledge and attitudes among zoo visitors has been challenged by some writers (Acampora, 1998; Falk et al., 2007; Luebke and Matiasek, 2013; Godinez and Fernandez, (2019).
Findings of some empirical studies on the effect of zoo education on zoo visitors by Marino et al. (2010), Dawson and Jensen, (2011) and, Moss and Esson (2013) reveal that zoos have not been able to effectively communicate conservation education to their visitors. Thus, Maynard et al. (2020) reported that zoo conservation education programmes have not been effective at changing and motivating zoo visitors into positive conservation actions. Similarly, Nygren and Ojalammi (2018), argued that the claim that zoos actually contribute to visitor’s conservation knowledge and behavioural changes is inconsequential.
Moreover, the continuous and persistent loss of global biodiversity has also been considered a measure of the ineffectiveness of zoo conservation education on zoo visitors (Bohm et al., 2013). More so, an increasing number of vertebrates are listed as threatened and endangered species annually (Hoffmann et al., 2010). Therefore, MacDonald et al., (2016), opined that the millions of dollars and staff time invested by several global biodiversity conservation organisations such as the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) at reversing the trend of global
MATERIAL AND METHODS
biodiversity loss is a huge failure because more vertebrates are continuously added to threatened and endangered lists annually. In addition, the education programmes of zoos have sometimes been noted to be counterproductive. For example, findings from studies conducted by Smith, (2008) and Adelman et al. (2010), revealed that zoo visitors were actually less knowledgeable about wildlife conservation and also exhibited declining pro-conservation attitudes after visiting zoos.
Similarly, some studies on zoos in Nigeria have been quick to laud zoos as conservation centres and conservation education agents, but none have critically analysed how effective zoos have been in achieving these. For example, Adams and Salome (2014) reported that the Kano Zoo supports education and scientific research, however, they fall short in portraying the effect of said education and research on attitudinal changes linked to conservation.
Likewise, much of the research work on zoological gardens in Nigeria fails to determine how their conservational efforts are performing (if one exists, to begin with), and how visitation to zoos impacts visitors’ perception, knowledge and understanding of conservation issues. Thus, it is important to ascertain the level of change in visitor’s conservation knowledge associated with zoo visits and identify particularly, the effectiveness of conservation education efforts of zoo visitors in Nigeria.
Therefore, the objectives of this paper are to identify the effect of conservation education on zoo visitors in the selected zoos, determine the conservation education/ awareness programmes carried out by the selected zoos and determine the relationship between the socio-demographic factors of visitors and their responses to zoo education programmes in the selected zoological gardens in Nigeria.
This study was carried out in three (3) selected Zoos located in three distinctive geo-political zones in Nigeria; namely Port Harcourt Zoo (PH Zoo) Rivers State, located in the South-South zone, University of Ibadan Zoo (UI Zoo), Oyo State, in South-West zone and Kano Zoo (Gidan Zoo), Kano State, located in North-West zone.
Port Harcourt Zoological Garden (PH Zoo)
The PH Zoo was established in 1974, by the former military governor Alfred Diete-Spiff. It is located in the Trans Amadi district of Obio Akpor local government area, Rivers State. Its tourist attractions include restaurants, a playground, and a museum. It is currently under the management of the Rivers State government through the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, Rivers State (Oladele and Udo, 2015, 2017). There are at least 11 different wildlife species present in the zoo with over 20 individuals (Anonymous, n.d.).
University of Ibadan Zoological Garden (UI Zoo)
The UI Zoo was founded in 1943, to aid the research and training programme for the students in the Department of zoology, University of Ibadan. It became a zoo in 1974 due to an increase in the number of visitors. Its purpose is conservation, education and entertainment. Its tourist attractions include diverse wildlife species, a playground, restaurants and a museum (Sijuade, 1977; Adefalu et al., 2014).
Kano Zoological Garden (Kano Zoo)
The Kano Zoo, popularly known as Gidan Zoo, was founded by the late Military Governor of Kano state, Gen. Audu Bako. The foundation stone was laid on the 14th of July 1971, however, the zoo was officially opened to the public in November 1972. The zoo was established for the purpose of conservation, education, research, and relaxation. Currently the largest zoo in Nigeria, the Kano Zoo covers a landmass of 43,000km. The zoo presently holds over 57 different species of wild animals, amounting to over 200 individual species.
The zoo has received animals from Tanzania, and Australia, and has both donated and received animals from other zoological gardens in Nigeria. Tourist attractions in the zoo include restaurants; children’s play parks, diverse wildlife species and a botanical garden. The Kano Zoo now belongs, together with the Falgore game reserve, to the Kano State Zoological Garden and Wildlife Management Agency, established in 1999. (Sijuade, 1977; Adams and Salome, 2014).
Methods of Data Collection
Data for the study was collected through the administration of 2 sets of structured questionnaires, visual observations, examination of administrative records and interviews with key personnel of the zoos. The first set was purposively administered to 100% of the management staff in the selected zoos with a minimum of three years of working experience in the selected zoos. Hence, five (5) questionnaires were administered to the management staff of the PH Zoo, but only three (3) were retrieved. In UI Zoo, nine (9) questionnaires were administered and eight (8) were retrieved.
Finally, in Kano Zoo, eighteen (18) questionnaires were administered and 18 were retrieved. Thus, a total of thirty-two (32) questionnaires were administered to staff respondents and twenty-eight (28) were retrieved.
The second set of questionnaires, a modified version of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) visitor evaluation toolbox on conservation attitudes adopted by Falk et al. (2007) was purposively administered randomly to one hundred (100) visitors who have paid at least a visit previously to each of the zoos under the pre-test and post-test research design.
In all, a total of 300 questionnaires were administered for the study. The reflection method was employed by asking the visitors to compare their pre-visit and post-visit feelings as they entered and exited the zoos in other to determine the changes in their knowledge about wildlife conservation and the functions of the zoos.
The questionnaires retrieved and analysed for PH Zoo, UI Zoo, and Kano Zoo are ninety-one (91), one hundred (100), and ninety (90) respectively, bringing the total number of sampled visitors to 281. In all, a total of three hundred and thirty-two (332) questionnaires were administered but three hundred and nine (309) were analysed for the study.
Method of Data Analysis
The data obtained from the survey were analysed by descriptive statistics using frequencies percentages and tables. Inferential statistics such as t-test, Spearman Rank Correlation, and Kruskal-Wallis Rank Test were also used in analysing the results.
The difference between pre-and post-test results was tested for statistical significance with a t-test. The Kruskal-Wallis rank test was used to test for significant differences between the scores of the three study sites. Spearman rank correlation test was used to test for a relationship between visitors’ sociodemographic characteristics and their scores. The Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS), version 16.0 was used to run these analyses.
Table 1 shows the pre-test and post-test results on the perceived functions of zoos by the visitor respondents in the three zoos. In PH Zoo, the consciousness of zoo visitors about the functions of zoos as a caring centre for wild animals decreased (-27.45%) after the post-test but increased in both UI (3.96%) and Kano Zoos (20.24%), educating the public on conservation also decreased after post-test in PH Zoo (-53.70%) but increased in UI Zoo (5.08%) and Kano Zoo (4.62%).
The function of zoos as breeding centres of wild animals decreased in PH Zoo (-16.67%), increased in UI Zoo (11.72%) and Kano Zoo (18.37%). The perception of zoos as breeding centres of endangered wildlife species decreased in PH Zoo (-22.06%), increased in UI (6.19%) and Kano Zoos (18.37%).
Results of the zoo visitors’ pre-test and post-test about conservation education in the selected zoos are presented in Table 2. Parameters such as “being at the zoo is fun” decreased in PH Zoo (-43.40%), but increased in UI Zoo (11.94%) and Kano Zoo (11.94%), and “I am part of the problems with nature” was zero in PH Zoo, increased in UI Zoo (3.75%) and decreased (-7.14%) in Kano Zoo. Also, the parameters “I am part of the solutions to nature’s problems” were negative in PH Zoo (-0.90%), positive in UI Zoo (6.16%) and negative in Kano Zoo (- 8.62%) and “Zoos care about animals” decreased significantly in PH Zoo (-43.48%) but positive (1.66%) and (3.23%) in UI Zoo and Kano Zoo respectively. “Zoos are important for wildlife conservation” was negative (-35.71%) in PH Zoo, positive in UI Zoo (3.05%) and Kano Zoo (22.22%). The parameter “we need to help protect wildlife” increased in PH Zoo (5.63%) and UI Zoo (6.0%) but negative (-1.41%) in Kano Zoo.
Table 1: Visitor’s Pre-test and Post-test results on the perceived functions of zoos by the visitor respondents in the three zoos.
|Location||PH Zoo||UI Zoo||Kano Zoo|
|Variables||Pre-test||Pre-test||Pos t-test||Pos t-test||Difference (%)||Pre-test||Post-test||Difference (%)||Differe nce (%)|
|Caring for animals in the zoo||510||370||-27.45||606||630||3.96||504||600||20.24|
|Educating the public about conservation issues such as threatened species||540||250||-53.70||551||579||5.08||455||476||4.62|
|Breeding animals in the zoo regardless of whether they are endangered or not||300||250||-16.67||430||480||11.63||343||406||18.37|
|Breeding endangered animals in the zoo||340||265||-22.06||435||486||11.72||350||399||14|
|Providing a fun day out for the public||575||570||-0.87||624||640||2.56||511||560||9.59|
|Reintroducing endangered animals into the wild that were bread in zoos||220||195||-11.36||452||480||6.19||378||336||-11.11|
|Carrying out and supporting conservation projects outside of the zoo to conserve wild animals||370||325||-12.16||484||512||5.79||322||364||13.04|
|Providing expert training for keepers/staff/conserva tionists||485||510||5.15||569||599||5.27||434||504||16.13|
|Donations to conservation organizations/projects||415||350||-15.66||456||490||7.46||329||399||21.28|
Source: Field Survey, 2019
Table 2: Pre-test and post-test of visitor’s knowledge about conservation education in the selected zoos
|Location||P.H. Zoo||U.I. Zoo||Kano Zoo|
|Parameter||Pre-test||Pre-test||Post-test||Difference (%)||Difference (%)||Pre-test||Post-test||Difference (%)||Differenc e (%)|
|Being at the zoo is fun||530||300||-43.40||561||628||11.94||532||553||3.95|
|I am part of the problems with nature||245||245||0||267||277||3.75||196||182||-7.14|
|I am part of the solutions to nature’s problems||550||545||-0.90||529||564||6.16||406||371||-8.62|
|Zoos care about wild animals||460||260||–43.48||603||613||1.66||434||448||3.23|
|Zoos are important for wildlife conservation||420||270||–35.71||591||609||3.05||378||462||22.22|
|We need to help protect wild animals||585||615||5.13||617||645||6||497||490||-1.41|
|We need to help protect plants||590||615||4.24||632||633||0.16||518||490||-5.41|
|There is a lot I can do to conserve||455||475||4.40||475||444||-6.53||357||343||-3.92|
|Nature helps define Nigeria’s national heritage and character||500||545||9||590||615||4.24||546||483||-11.54|
|Nature is a place to renew the human spirit||377||545||44.56||589||621||5.43||553||539||-2.53|
|We have the responsibilit y to leave healthy ecosystems for our families and future generations||535||555||3.74||627||651||3.83||532||497||-6.58|
Source: Field survey, 2019
Table 3 shows the t-test result shows the pre-test and post-test scores for functions of zoos (t value = 4.468, P<0.05 and conservation knowledge (t value = 8.262, P < 0.05) in PH Zoo. In UI Zoo, the t-test analysis for pre-test and post-test scores for functions of zoos was (t value = -2.006, P<0.05) and conservation knowledge (t value = -3.981, P < 0.05). The t-test analysis in Kano Zoo, for both the pre-test and post-test scores for functions of zoos, were (t value = -5.391, P<0.05, for the pre-test and (t value = 1, P > 0.05) as post-test scores for conservation knowledge.
Table 3: Summary of t-test analysis measuring the differences in pre and post-visit knowledge of visitor respondents on the functions of zoos and conservation education in the selected zoos.
|Variables||Mean||Standard deviation||Standard Error Mean||t value||Df||P Values||Signific ance||Inference|
|Conservation education. (Pre-test scores)- (Post-test scores)||4.666 67||9.90970||1.04457||4.468||89||0.000||P <0.05||Significant|
|Conservation education (Pre-test scores) – (Post-test) scores)||5.166 67||5.93267||0.62536||8.262||89||0.00||P <0.05||Significant|
|Functions of Zoos (Pre-test scores)- Post-test Scores)||– 3.210 00||9.90970||1.04457||-1.006||98||0.048||P < 0.05||Significant|
|Conservation knowledge (Pre-test scores)- (Post-test cores).||– 2.700 0||5.93267||0.62536||-3.981||99||0.00||P < 0.05||Significant|
|Functions of zoos (Pre-test scores) – (Post-test scores)||– 5.391||4.55955||0.53040||– 10.173||73||0.000||P < 0.05||Significant|
|Conservation knowledge (Pre-test scores)- (Post-test cores).||1||8.33543||0.96897||1.032||72||0.305||P > 0.05||Not significant|
Source: Field survey, 2019
Table 4 presents results for the Kruskal Wallis Non-parametric analysis for the different scores amongst the three locations. The table shows that there is a significant difference amongst the test scores for conservation learning for the three locations (X2 = 65.716, P < 0.05), and test scores for zoo function learning (X2 = 49.830, P < 0.05).
Table 4: Summary of Kruskal-Wallis Non-parametric analysis for the different scores in the different zoos
|Parameter||Calculated chi-square value||P value||Significance||Inference|
|Test scores for conservation knowledge score for the three zoos||65.716||0.000||P < 0.05||There is a significant difference in the test scores for the three zoos|
|Test scores for the function of zoos for the three zoos||49.830||0.000||P < 0.05||There is a significant difference in the test scores for the three zoos|
Source: Field survey, 2019
Table 5 shows methods employed by the various zoos in educating their visitors about wildlife conservation. Interactive displays, is the most used method in educating visitors in PH Zoo (100%), while animal shows (94.4%) is the most used method in Kano Zoo and illustrated species talk (85.7%) is the most used method in UI Zoo.
Table 5: Conservation Education Programmes of the selected zoos as indicated by staff respondents
|Variables||PH Zoo||UI Zoo||Kano Zoo|
|Frequency||Percentage %||Frequency Percentage %||Frequency||Percentage %|
|Illustrated Species Talk||Yes||1||33.3||1||14.3||6||33.3|
Source: Field Survey, 2019
Table 6 shows the number of students from elementary to tertiary levels of education school pupils educated in Kano Zoo from 2009 to 2018. The peak months for all the years were March and July. On average, 36,594 students have been trained by the zoo every year since 2009.
Table 6: Number of students educated in Kano Zoo between 2009 to 2018
Source: Field Survey, 2019
Socio-demographic characteristics and its influence on visitors’ conservation learning and zoo function learning
Table 7 shows the result of Spearman’s rank correlation for the test of a significant relationship between socio-demographic characteristics and conservation learning and function learning. In UI Zoo, there is no significant relationship between sex and conservation learning, sex and function learning, age and function learning, education and function learning, occupation and conservation learning, and occupation and function learning (P > 0.05). However, there were significant relationships between Age and Conservation learning, education and conservation learning (P < 0.05).
Amongst visitor respondents of the Kano Zoo, sex and conservation learning, sex and function learning, and occupation and function learning had no significant relationship P > 0.05, but age and conservation learning. Age and function learning, education and conservation learning, education and function learning, occupation and conservation learning, and age and conservation learning all had significant relationships. In P.H. Zoo, there was no significant relationship between sex and conservation learning, sex and function learning, age and function learning, education and conservation learning, occupation and conservation learning, and occupation and function learning (P > 0.05), while age and conservation learning, education and function learning had significant relationships (P < 0.05).
Table 7: Summary of Spearman’s rank correlation analysis testing for a relationship between demographic and pre-test post-test scores amongst visitor respondents in the three zoos.
|Location||Variables||Correlation coefficient||P values||Significance||Inference|
|UI Zoo||Sex and Function Learning||-0.005||0.958||P > 0.05||Not significant|
|Age and Function Learning||-0.113||0.264||P > 0.05||Not significant|
|Sex and Conservation Learning||-0.276||0.005||P≤ 0.05||Significant|
|Education and Conservation Learning||-0.014||0.893||P > 0.05||Not significant|
|Occupation and Function Learning||0.202||0.043||P < 0.05||Significant|
|Education and function learning||0.077||0.446||P > 0.05||Not significant|
|Sex and Conservation Learning||0.044||0.664||P>0.05||Not significant|
|Occupation and Conservation Learning||0.017||0.863||P>0.05||Not significant|
|Kano Zoo||Sex and Function Learning||-0.135||0.203||P> 0.05||Not significant|
|Age and Conservation Learning||0.000||1.0||P>0.05||Not significant|
|Age and Function Learning||-0.314||0.002||P < 0.05||Significant|
|Education and Conservation Learning||0.281||0.007||P < 0.05||Significant|
|Occupation and Conservation Learning||0.671||0.000||P < 0.05||Significant|
|Education and function learning||0.331||0.001||P < 0.05||Significant|
|Occupation and Function Learning||-0.374||0.000||P < 0.05||Significant|
|Sex and Conservation Learning||-0.064||0.547||P > 0.05||Not significant|
|PH Zoo||Sex and Conservation learning||0.187||0.077||P > 0.05||Not significant|
|Sex and function learning||0.055||0.606||P > 0.05||Not significant|
|Age and conservation learning||-0.303||0.004||P < 0.05||Significant|
|Age and function learning||0.024||0.824||P>.05||Not significant|
|Education and conservation learning||-0.106||0.318||P > 0.05||Not significant|
|Occupation and Conservation Learning||0.364||0.000||P < 0.05||Significant|
|Occupation and Conservation learning||0,189||0.074||P > 0.05||Not significant|
|Occupation and function learning||-0.192||0.070||P > 0.05||Not significant|
Source: Field survey, 2019
Figure 1: Map of Nigeria showing the study sites
Effect of zoo conservation education on Zoo visitors’ knowledge
Results show that visit to zoos have quantifiable positive and negative impacts on zoo visitor’s understanding of conservation issues and the roles zoos in wildlife conservation. Port Harcourt Zoo visitors experienced a reduction in their knowledge about the functions of zoos and conservation knowledge after visiting the zoo (Tables 1 and 2).
The level of satisfaction of zoo visitors especially concerning the state of the animal, the manner they are displayed and the overall welfare of zoo animals have serious impact on visitors’ perception of zoos. Packer (2018), similarly noted that visitors often make judgements on whether the animals in the zoo are well cared for through ratings of the animal’s perceived health conditions.
PH Zoo has the highest levels of dissatisfaction in all three zoos as 50% of the visitors claimed they were unsatisfied while 16.7% were highly unsatisfied (Figure 1). Visitor’s individual action messages such as “Zoos care about animals” and “Zoos are important for wildlife conservation”, reduced considerably as a consequence of their visit (Table 2). Also, there is a significant decrease in the visitor’s perception of the functions of the zoo.
Visitors to the Port Harcourt Zoo felt that caring for animals, educating the public about conservation issues, breeding of endangered animals, and reintroduction of species into the wild are not important functions of the zoo (Table 1). This can be attributed to poor zoo education programmes and poor zoo experience. The zoo may have been considered a poor leaning environment about environmental education by the visitors because of the condition of the zoo.
Consequently, this shows that a poor-performing zoo can reduce visitors’ positive orientation towards zoos. Nevertheless, this may also have bolstered the fact that zoo visitors care so much about entertainment rather than learning about zoo and zoo animals as reported by Carr and Cohen, 2011) as well as Roe and McConney (2015). The results of their studies show that visitors were usually concerned primarily with viewing animals and not show poor interest in learning about them.
There was an increase in the acceptance that “we need to help protect the animals and leave a healthier ecosystem for our family and future generations” (Table 2). The poor status of the zoo could also have heightened the need for biodiversity conservation in the minds of the zoo visitors which was reflected in their responses.
A decrease in action messages such as “There is a lot I can do to conserve nature” and “I am part of the solution to nature’s problem” for visitors in Kano Zoo as shown in Table 2 reveals that zoo visitors can learn about conservation in a zoo, without learning about the role they can play and actions they can take to help conserve biodiversity.
However, in UI Zoo, visitor’s knowledge and attitude towards conservation, and the functions of the zoo significantly improved due to their visit (Table 1 and Table 2). Visitors experienced an increase in their Pro conservation thoughts such as “I am part of the problems with nature”, “I am part of the solutions”, “zoos are important for wildlife conservation”, and “we need to protect the animals (Table 2).
This corroborates the findings of Nickels (2008) and Falk et al. (2007) that visitors to the zoo leave with a significantly increased conservation attitude post visiting, becoming more aware of their role in environmental problems. Results also show that visiting zoos strengthened their knowledge of the functions of zoos, with a significant increase in their perception that “Caring for animals in the zoo is good”, “Educating the public about conservation issues such as threatened species”, “Breeding endangered animals in the zoo”, are important functions of the zoo (Table 1).
There was no statistically significant change in visitors understanding of conservation due to their visit in Kano Zoo (Table 3). As observed by Falk et al., (2007), some zoo visitors have a broader understanding of biodiversity than realized, and as such, changes ascribed to their visits are intangible and not statistically different. Nevertheless, visits to the zoo still strengthen the values of the visitors, as in the case of Kano Zoo where visitors experienced 3% and 22.2% increase in their perception that zoos care about animals and that zoos are important for wildlife conservation, respectively (Table 2).
Nevertheless, the t-test (Table 3) and Kruskal Wallis analysis measuring the differences in the pre-test and post-test scores of visitors’ zoo function and conservation knowledge test scores for visitors in the three zoos (Table 4) show significant differences.
The results of the study clearly reinforced the perception that zoo visitors often become less knowledgeable about the functions of zoos after a zoo visit. The result of the study further shows that many zoo visitors are usually less interested in learning about animals on display in various zoos because they visit zoos primarily for entertainment which was similarly reported by Luebke et al. (2016). The result of this study agrees with the findings of Marino et al. (2010) in their review of the impact of zoo visits on the attitudinal changes of American zoo visitors.
Their study revealed that knowledge about zoo animals and environmental conservation attitudes actually decline after zoo visits. Since many zoo visitors are in the zoos primarily to be entertained by the captive zoo animals. Hence, they concentrate on the entertainment and funny antics of captive animals which often captivate their attention rather than the zoo conservation education efforts as affirmed by Ludwig (1981).
Conservation education/ training programmes in the Selected Zoos
The result of the study revealed that the three zoos employed animal shows, animal handling, keeper talks, guided tours, illustrated species talks and interactive displays to educate their visitors as shown in Table 5. The study also shows that interactive displays are the most used method in educating visitors in PH Zoo, while animal shows and illustrated species talk are the most used methods in Kano and UI Zoos. These methods differ from the one employed by the San Diego Zoo (San Diego Zoo, 2017).
The selected zoological gardens educate students from primary to tertiary institutions on zoo visits. The majority of the zoo staff respondents in the three zoos indicated that visitors on excursion trips to the zoos are educated on conservation education through guided tours. In Kano Zoo, an average of 36,594 students have been educated on conservation and the role of zoos, annually from 2009 till 2019 (Table 6).
However, it is very clear from the responses of the zoo visitors that these methods are not really effective at achieving the actual goals of entrenching conservation awareness in zoo visitors towards influencing them into taking conservation actions. It could also suggest that the programmes were poorly delivered such that visitors might perceive these programmes as part of the entertaining programmes of the zoos.
Effect of socio-demographic Factors on Visitors Learning
In all three zoos, visitors’ gender was not found to be significantly related to their conservation knowledge learning or function of zoo learning. This is contrary to the findings of Powell and Bullock (2014) who reported that female visitors had stronger emotional experiences in the zoo than their male counterparts. In all three zoos, Spearman’s rho showed significant weak negative linear relationship between visitor’s age and their conservation learning (P≤ 0.05) (Table 9).
This implies that as the visitor’s ages across the zoos increased, their conservation learning decreased. Younger adults tend to explore zoos more, read animals tags, and spend more time viewing each animal. This disagrees with the work of Powell and Bullock (2014) where young adults were observed to have reduced positive emotional response than elderly participants.
Education was seen to have a significant weak positive linear relationship with function learning in UI Zoo and in PH Zoo (P< 0.05) (Table 7). However, the relationship between education and conservation learning in UI Zoo was strongly positive.
This implies that conservation knowledge and zoo function learning are related to visitor’s educational qualifications. Similarly, visitors to Dundee’s Discovery Point Exhibition shows that zoo visitors with higher educational qualification had higher learning index (Prentice et al., 1998). This implies that the higher the educational level of visitors, the higher their conservation knowledge (Table 7).
This study has given insight into the effect of conservation education on zoo visitors in the three selected zoos in Nigeria. The study revealed that the conservation education of the selected zoos has both positive and negative impacts on the conservation knowledge of zoo visitors and the functions of zoos. The positive effect on the conservation knowledge among zoo visitors in UI and Kano Zoos is slim.
However, the study shows that PH Zoo visitors experienced serious negative changes in their knowledge about the conservation and functions of zoos after their visit to the zoo. Visitor unsatisfied with the welfare and state of the zoo and its animals may experience a reduction in their perception of the role zoos have to play in the conservation of wildlife. This was the case in PH Zoo as visitors moved from thinking zoos are important for wildlife conservation before visit, to rejecting that belief after visit.
It is therefore important that further research into factors responsible for the widening gap between pre-visit and post-visit scores of zoo visitors be conducted. The study also revealed that the selected zoos actually have conservation education programmes, though ineffective at encouraging pro-conservation actions among zoo visitors who often become less knowledgeable about conservation knowledge after a zoo visit.
This perhaps may be a reflection of what is happening in other zoos in Nigeria. It is also very important that the content of education programmes of Nigerian Zoos and method of delivery be investigated in order to improve and strengthened the positive impacts of zoo education on zoo visitors in Nigeria.
This will help in contributing to positive conservation attitudes and pro-conservation actions among many zoo visitors in Nigeria. Other findings of the study showed that the educational qualification of zoo visitors has significant implications on their appreciation of the conservation education programmes of the zoos.
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