A closer examination of the impact of zoo visits on visitor behaviour

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Publication details

Smith, L, Broad, S & Weiler, B 2008, 'A closer examination of the impact of zoo visits on visitor behaviour', Journal of Sustainable Tourism, vol. 16, no. 5, pp. 544-562.

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Zoos suggest that they can play a role in fostering conservation behaviour, but there is only limited research support for such claims. This article examines why there might be a difference between the stated potential for zoos to influence visitor behaviour and existing research findings. The present study utilises a research design, methods and instruments that provide more sensitive measures of conservation behaviour outcomes. In particular, a distinction is made between behaviours that were already known to visitors and new/unknown behaviours. Two behaviours communicated during a bird presentation at anAustralian zoo (recycling and removing road kill from the road) were chosen to test. Results include that, of the 175 respondents, 142 (81%) recalled hearing the conservation actions during the presentation and 95 (54%) stated an intention to increase their commitment or start an action. In 38 follow-up telephone interviews sixmonths after their visit, 26 stated that they had started or increased their commitment to an action. However, only three had started a new action and these were actions previously known to them. The results frame a discussion on actions that zoos may wish to target if they wish to communicate more successfully.

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