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Along with excellence in animal care and meaningful conservation, inspiring our visitors to care for animals and the wild places in which they live is one of the most important roles of an aquarium or a zoo. Our animal collections serve as ambassadors for nature by inspiring people to care through the creation of powerful connections between people and animals. The PAAZA community strives to ensure that each visitor leaves a facility having learnt something about animals and our environment, and empowered to make the behaviour changes needed to secure a future for all – people and animals.

The PAAZA community reaches people from all communities – rich and poor, urban and rural. Each visitor provides the zoo or aquarium with a wonderful opportunity to connect people and animals; an opportunity which cannot afford to be wasted as our planet faces threats of climate change, habitat loss, pollution, invasive species and overexploitation of all natural resources. These threats can only be overcome if people care enough for our environment to change their behaviour.

The goals of our Visitor Experience Programme are:

I – Inspire visitors to care

C – Show how every visitor their daily life is connected to nature

E – Empower visitors to make the behaviour changes needed to secure a future for our environment

Learners and educators are also visitors and most PAAZA facilities have special programmes for school groups. More information on this aspect of our work is available in the Resources section.

The importance of Education is highlighted in the PAAZA Operational Standards which states: “It must be remembered that the future of species held in zoos and aquariums depends on people, and the educational role of zoos and aquariums in conservation cannot be overstated”, whilst accredited facilities need to employ at least one full time education officer. In addition, the World Association of Zoos and Aquaria Conservation Strategy states: ”Every person working at a zoo must be involved in education in some way or another.

Evaluation of the effectiveness of our work is critical. Visitor numbers are no longer enough to measure impact – the real impact of a visit to a PAAZA facility on a visitors’ knowledge, attitude and behaviour, needs to be measured through appropriate rigorous research. A number of PAAZA facilities have initiated research into the impact of a visit on visitor’s knowledge and behaviour. Initial results will be available soon.

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“If happiness consist in the number of pleasing emotions that occupy our mind, how true it is that the contemplation of nature is one of the great sources of happiness.” Thomas Belt, Naturalist.

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