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Impact of Conservation Education on Zoo Tourists in Selected Zoos  in Nigeria

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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 
*Corresponding author: 

Education programme  Impacts 
Zoo functions 
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  


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-testPre-testPos t-testPos t-testDifference (%)Pre-testPost-testDifference (%)Differe nce  (%)
Caring for animals in the zoo 510370-27.456066303.9650460020.24
Educating the public  about conservation  issues such as  threatened species540 250 -53.70 551 579 5.08 455 476 4.62
Breeding animals in the  zoo regardless of  whether they are  endangered or not300 250 -16.67 430 480 11.63 343 406 18.37
Breeding endangered  animals in the zoo340 265 -22.06 435 486 11.72 350 399 14
Providing a fun day out  for the public575 570 -0.87 624 640 2.56 511 560 9.59
Reintroducing  endangered animals  into the wild that were  bread in zoos220 195 -11.36 452 480 6.19 378 336 -11.11
Carrying out and  supporting  conservation projects  outside of the zoo to  conserve wild animals370 325 -12.16 484 512 5.79 322 364 13.04
Providing expert  training for  keepers/staff/conserva tionists485 510 5.15 569 599 5.27 434 504 16.13
Donations to  conservation  organizations/projects415 350 -15.66 456 490 7.46 329 399 21.28
Scientific research 5305707.555836084.2940652529.31

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. ZooU.I. ZooKano Zoo
Parameter Pre-testPre-testPost-testDifference (%)Difference (%)Pre-testPost-testDifference (%)Differenc e (%)
Being at the  zoo is fun530 300 -43.40 561 628 11.94 532 553 3.95
I am part of  the  problems  with nature245 245 267 277 3.75 196 182 -7.14
I am part of  the solutions  to nature’s  problems550 545 -0.90 529 564 6.16 406 371 -8.62
Zoos care  about wild  animals460 260 43.48 603 613 1.66 434 448 3.23
Zoos are  important  for wildlife  conservation420 270 35.71 591 609 3.05 378 462 22.22
We need to  help protect  wild animals585 615 5.13 617 645 497 490 -1.41
We need to  help protect  plants590 615 4.24 632 633 0.16 518 490 -5.41
There is a lot  I can do to  conserve455 475 4.40 475 444 -6.53 357 343 -3.92
Nature helps  define  Nigeria’s  national  heritage and  character500 545 590 615 4.24 546 483 -11.54
Nature is a  place to  renew the  human spirit377 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  generations535 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  deviationStandard  Error  Meant value Df P  ValuesSignific anceInference
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)5.166 675.93267 0.62536 8.262 89 0.00 P <0.05 Significant
UI Zoo 
Functions  of Zoos  (Pre-test  scores)- Post-test Scores)– 3.210 009.90970 1.04457 -1.006 98 0.048 P <  0.05Significant
Conservation knowledge  (Pre-test scores)- (Post-test cores).– 2.700 05.93267 0.62536 -3.981 99 0.00 P <  0.05Significant
Kano Zoo 
Functions  of zoos  (Pre-test  scores) – (Post-test  scores)– 5.3914.55955 0.53040 – 10.17373 0.000 P <  0.05Significant
Conservation knowledge  (Pre-test  scores)- (Post-test cores).8.33543 0.96897 1.032 72 0.305 P >  0.05Not  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  valueP value Significance Inference
Test scores for  conservation  knowledge score for  the three zoos65.716 0.000 P < 0.05There is a significant  difference in the test  scores for the three zoos
Test scores for the  function of zoos for the  three zoos49.830 0.000 P < 0.05There 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  %
Animal  ShowsYes 33.3 28.6 17 94.4
No 66.7 71.4 5.6
Total 100 100 18 100
Animal  HandlingYes 33.3 71.4 11 61.1
No 66.7 28.6 38.9
Total 100 100 18 100
Keeper  TalksYes 66.7 28.6 50.0
No 33.3 71.4 50.0
Total 100 100 18 100
Guided  ToursYes 66.7 57.1 13 77.8
No 33.3 42.9 22.2
Total 100 100 18 100
Illustrated  Species  TalkYes 33.3 14.3 33.3
No 66.7 85.7 12 66.7
Total 100 100 18 100
Interactive  displaysYes 28.6 33.3
No 100 71.4 12 66.7
Total 100 100 18 100

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 

Variables 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018*
Jan 1274 259 150 928 559 276 1202 2195 1574
Feb 3525 1684 1267 463 4696 3592 1975 9430 8799 9872
Mar 3236 4715 4174 1850 5248 8340 2606 17090 18119 21110
Apr 1724 2469 1357 484 3238 2642 296 5564 6568 4159
May 1305 301 1024 863 1531 3831 4432 5144 5085 4480
Jun 4891 1980 4136 3355 5876 9386 11667 2782 434 813
Jul 4838 5891 6913 5375 2895 122 414 4479 4451 0
Aug 3350 2702 963 412 1877 607 9316 0
Sep 24 80 178 317 211 55 2537 362 0
Oct 285 841 1177 7643 1369 121 1478 1542 885 0
Nov 1161 66 2182 2283 3813 1089 4243 5079 9806 0
Dec 556 1052 792 1843 3537 993 2237 4586 3887 0

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 coefficientP  valuesSignificance 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 Learning0.202 0.043 P < 0.05 Significant
Education and  function learning0.077 0.446 P > 0.05 Not significant
Sex and Conservation  Learning0.044 0.664 P>0.05 Not significant
Occupation and  Conservation Learning0.017 0.863 P>0.05 Not significant
Kano  ZooSex and Function  Learning-0.135 0.203 P> 0.05 Not significant
Age and Conservation  Learning0.000 1.0 P>0.05 Not significant
Age and Function  Learning-0.314 0.002 P < 0.05 Significant
Education and  Conservation Learning0.281 0.007 P < 0.05 Significant
Occupation and  Conservation Learning0.671 0.000 P < 0.05 Significant
Education and  function learning0.331 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  learning0.187 0.077 P > 0.05 Not significant
Sex and function  learning0.055 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 Learning0.364 0.000 P < 0.05 Significant
Occupation and  Conservation learning0,189 0.074 P > 0.05 Not significant
Occupation and  function learning -0.192 0.070 P > 0.05 Not significant

Source: Field survey, 2019 

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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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