Evaluating the Conservation Impact of an Innovative
Zoo‐Based Educational Campaign: ‘Don't Palm Us
Off’for Orang‐utan Conservation
Elissa L. Pearson,
* Rachel Lowry,
and Carla A. Litchﬁeld
School of Psychology, Social Work & Social Policy, University of South Australia, Adelaide, Australia
Zoos Victoria, Melbourne, Australia
With signiﬁcant biodiversity loss occurring presently, increased emphasis is being placed upon the capacity of zoos to
contribute to species conservation. This paper evaluates an innovative conservation education campaign ‘Don’t Palm Us Off’
implemented at Melbourne Zoo, Australia. This sought to address a lack of public awareness regarding palm oil (the product
most threatening the survival of the orang‐utan) and to create public support for mandatory labeling of palm oil on food
products, allowing for informed consumer purchasing. Communication tools utilized included an educational video
presentation played on‐site, as well as You Tube video, celebrity ambassadors, and social media. Evaluation took place across
four time‐points: baseline, mid‐point, conclusion (12 months), and follow‐up. Zoo visitors (N¼403) were randomly selected
whilst visiting the orang‐utan exhibit, completing a questionnaire regarding knowledge about orang‐utans, attitudes toward
orang‐utans, support for palm oil labeling, previous conservation behavior, and intentions for future behavior. Results revealed
signiﬁcant increases in palm oil awareness; attitudes toward orang‐utans; support for palm oil labeling; and indicating labeling
would inﬂuence purchasing behavior, at all times relative to baseline (P<0.01). There were also signiﬁcant increases in self‐
reported conservation behavior at the end of the campaign and follow‐up (P<0.05). In excess of 160,000 people additionally
signed an associated petition for mandatory palm oil labeling. Overall the ﬁndings support the efﬁcacy of this multi‐faceted
initiative; highlighting the importance of continued innovation in zoo‐based conservation education and practice (including
the integration of emerging technologies with traditional on‐site education) to maximize contributions to species conservation.
Zoo Biol. XX:XX–XX, 2014. © 2014 The Authors. Zoo Biology published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
Keywords: orang‐utan; palm oil; conservation; education; zoo
Environmental issues are one of the most pressing
challenges facing humanity at present [Clayton and
Brook, 2005]. Human actions are directly contributing to
climate change, over‐consumption of the earth’s limited
resources, and a loss of biodiversity [Stern, 1992; Saunders,
2003; Clayton and Myers, 2009; Wich et al., 2011]. The
impacts of human behavior and population expansion on
other animal species have been particularly signiﬁcant
[McKee, 2009]. The International Union for the Conservation
of Nature (based on evaluations of nearly 56,000 different
species) suggests that 33% of animal life on earth is presently
threatened [IUCN, 2010]. Some have even argued that
humans have entered a new geological epoch, the Anthro-
pocene, in recognition of the immense human impacts on the
planet and ecology since the industrial revolution [Steffen
Conﬂict of interest: The authors wish to declare that Rachel Lowry is
Zoos Victoria’s Director of Wildlife Conservation and Science.
Correspondence to: Elissa L. Pearson, School of Psychology, Social
Work & Social Policy, Room C1‐21, Magill Campus, St Bernards Road,
University of South Australia, GPO Box 2471, Adelaide, South
Australia 5001, Australia. E‐mail: email@example.com
Received 10 December 2012; Revised 06 December 2013; Accepted 15
This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons
Attribution‐NonCommercial License, which permits use, distribution and
reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited and
is not used for commercial purposes.
Published online XX Month Year in Wiley Online Library
© 2014 The Authors. Zoo Biology Published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
Zoo Biology 9999 : 1–13 (2014)
et al., 2007]. One challenge in addressing these issues and
seeking to minimize the environmental impact of human
actions is education.
Environmental issues are often poorly understood by
the general public, due in part to their invisible nature [i.e., it
is difﬁcult to perceive the absence of a species from a
traditional habitat and impossible to directly view greenhouse
gases being emitted into the atmosphere; Moser and
Dilling, 2011] and beyond the school or university setting
there may be scarce formal opportunities to learn about
environmental challenges and the environmental impacts of
an individual’s actions [Tilbury, 1995; Ballantyne and
Packer, 2005]. Increasingly, attention is being placed upon
the role of free‐choice learning experiences in ﬁlling these
voids and providing new knowledge and understandings over
the life course [Falk, 2005]. In relation to biodiversity loss
speciﬁcally, much emphasis has been placed upon the
potential of reputable zoological parks and aquaria to serve
this role in society [AZA, 2011]. Beyond places for
entertainment and leisure, zoos are increasingly seeking to
build their capacity to educate the public and contribute to a
conservation ethic [Ballantyne et al., 2007; Falk et al., 2007].
Learning Opportunities Within the Zoo
Historically, the education and conservation roles of
zoos were expected to take place through visits to animal
exhibits, where observing animals and their behavior was
hoped to inspire appreciation for, and connectedness to, other
species [Whitehead, 1995; MacDonald and Gavin, 2010].
Educational outcomes were anticipated as a result of visitors
actively reading the signage and viewing the animal displays
provided at these exhibits [Andersen, 2003]. Such signage
information usually covers aspects of animal biology,
taxonomy, lifespan, and sometimes the conservation threats
they face in the wild [Fraser et al., 2009]. Evidence for the
efﬁcacy of these approaches however is inconclusive, with
inconsistent previous research ﬁndings. Some authors
suggest there is little or no data supporting the educational
beneﬁts of zoos [Mazur and Clark, 2001; Tribe and
Booth, 2003; Marino et al., 2010], while others emphasize
the need for continued improvement in educational practices
and evaluation [i.e., Broad and Weiler, 1998]. On the basis of
a recent evaluation of visitor understanding about orang‐
utans and the conservation challenges they face, following a
visit to orang‐utan exhibits at several Australian zoos
[Pearson et al., 2013], the current authors concur with the
In particular, previous studies have suggested tradi-
tional zoo signage is often poorly attended to and may miss
the most important information required by visitors; not that
there is a problem, but what visitors can actually do to help
[Falk, 2005]. In response to these challenges, and to enhance
traditional approaches, zoos are continually developing
new educational techniques and practices, to complement
their existing signage and animal displays, and enhance their
conservation outcomes. One technique with growing
support for its efﬁcacy is the combination of animal displays,
on‐exhibit animal training and keeper presentation. In a study
of visitors to an otter exhibit, it was demonstrated that training
and training with interpretation resulted in greater satisfaction
ratings and longer view times than passive viewing or the
keeper talk in isolation [Anderson et al., 2003]. Although
learning was not directly assessed, it follows logically that
longer viewing times provide more learning opportunities.
Children have shown similar knowledge beneﬁts from the
combination of these processes, with the group who viewed
training with an interactive keeper presentation far outscoring
children who heard a factual presentation alone or passively
viewed an animal training session [Vischer et al., 2009]. This
is consistent with the ﬁndings of Weiler and Smith 
that more layers of interpretation (and different interpretive
experience opportunities, i.e., walking along the trail with
static displays, attending a keeper talk, interacting with/
asking questions of a volunteer guide, or participating in a
behind‐the‐scenes tour) are associated with greater learning.
Comparable positive impacts have also been seen through
the use of zoo theatre performances or placing costumed
interpreters at selected exhibits to provide information to
the public and answer questions arising from the viewing
experience [Penn, 2009].
Different styles of exhibits are another strategy which
may produce increased learning outcomes. Broad and Weiler
 compared visitor learning at a traditional tiger zoo
exhibit (Western Plains Zoo) with learning at the tiger exhibit
at Dreamworld. The former contains a single tiger on exhibit
accompanied by a sign providing basic facts about tigers and
the speciﬁc tiger displayed. The exhibit within the Dream-
world theme park differs greatly, housing multiple tigers in an
exhibit with several keepers also present who interact with the
tigers and provide information during keeper talks, public
interaction, and regular animal behavior shows throughout the
day. Results indicated that while three quarters of visitors to
each zoo reported learning something from their visit, the
depth of understanding was far greater at Dreamworld.
From these ﬁndings, it is evident that change and
evolution are an important component of enhancing zoo‐based
education and conservation outcomes into the future. The rest
of this paper will discuss an innovative campaign launched at
Melbourne Zoo in 2009–2010, which combined zoo
experiences and resources with social networking and media
in the interests of public education and species conservation.
The ‘Don't Palm Us Off’[DPUO] Campaign
The orang‐utan is one of the closest living human
relatives, yet human actions are currently pushing this species
toward extinction [Payne and Prudente, 2008; Wich
et al., 2011]. The rainforest habitat of the orang‐utan in
Borneo and Sumatra is being cleared to produce timber
products and plant palm oil crops [Ancrenaz et al., 2010]. As
people around the globe purchase these products, they
2Pearson et al.
indirectly (and often unknowingly) contribute to driving
greater demand and accelerated habitat loss through their
actions as consumers [Goodall and Berman, 2003; Koh and
Wilcove, 2007]. In response to these issues, in 2009,
Melbourne Zoo launched a conservation campaign named
‘Don’t Palm Us Off.’There were three goals of this initiative.
The ﬁrst was to use the zoo experience to raise public
awareness about what palm oil is, the many products it is
contained in, and the impact on rainforests and orang‐utans.
This and the associated conservation implications are the
focus of the present paper. Other goals were to change the
food labeling laws in Australia and New Zealand to make
palm oil labeling compulsory and to subsequently drive a
market need for certiﬁed sustainable palm oil.
One of the primary tools utilized to raise awareness was
a video which described the links between palm oil and
orang‐utan habitat destruction, as well as the proliﬁc use of
palm oil in food products sold within Australia. The 1 min
video was played on a constant loop on a large television
screen within the visitor center for the duration of the
campaign, ensuring all visitors through the exhibit had an
opportunity to learn about this issue. The video was narrated
by a prominent Australian TV presenter (Kim Watkins) and
featured other TV celebrities (George Calombaris from
Masterchef and Claire Hooper from Good News Week) as
well as everyday Australian families proclaiming “we want
the choice.”Petition cards were provided at the exhibit for
visitors to sign in support of mandatory palm oil labeling.
The campaign also extended beyond Zoos Victoria,
with several other Australian Zoos launching their own
awareness campaigns and the video being made publicly
available on YouTube (this can be seen at: http://www.
youtube.com/watch?v¼oRQWj4H9nH0) and screening on
free‐to‐air television in Australia on Channel Ten during the
campaign. Awareness was further enhanced by a Melbourne
Zoo website, which provided information about the palm oil
issue, links to conservation organizations, and an online
petition which could be signed by zoo visitors and other
members of the public alike. Palm oil wallet cards were also
made available to visitors to the Zoo or the Zoo website in
hard and/or soft‐copy which explained to consumers the
common product names under which palm oil can be listed
(i.e., sodium lauryl sulfate, sodium laureth sulfate). Social
networking was additionally utilized with pages established
on Facebook to further disseminate the message. The
campaign received national media coverage with segments
on the 7 PM Project (a television news program in Australia)
and national radio.
As this campaign is the ﬁrst of its kind within Australia,
the research sought to explore its effectiveness. Speciﬁcally,
groups of visitors were sampled at four different time points
to evaluate changes in visitor responses as the campaign
progressed. Outcome variables included:
Visitor satisfaction with their experience.
General knowledge about orang‐utans.
Speciﬁc knowledge about the main threats to wild orang‐utan
Attitudes toward orang‐utans.
The subjective norm (visitors rating of the importance of
orang‐utan conservation to friends and family).
Support for palm oil labeling.
Palm oil purchasing.
General commitments to support orang‐utan conservation.
MATERIALS AND METHODS
The research received ethics approval from the
University of South Australia Human Research Ethics
Committee (P029/09) and the research/ethics panel at Zoos
Four data collection sessions took place at Melbourne
Zoo to evaluate the impact of the campaign. The ﬁrst of these
was a baseline measure and took place 6 months prior to the
campaign commencing. The second took place at 6 months
(or halfway) into the campaign. The third was held nearing
12 months into the campaign, to evaluate the full impact as
the campaign reached its conclusion. The fourth and ﬁnal
session was then conducted 6 months after the campaign
ended to determine whether there was any lasting inﬂuence.
For each session the data collection procedure was held
constant. Data were alwayscollected on a Friday and Saturday
to balance the different visitor demographics expected on
weekdays compared with weekends and there was no extreme
weather during the data collection periods. All surveys were
distributed at the orang‐utan exhibit at Melbourne Zoo
between 10 AM and 4 PM on data collection days.
Participation was voluntary and for eligibility in the
research visitors were required to be above 18 years of age
and have adequate English proﬁciency. Visitors were also
required to have at least paused momentarily and oriented
their gaze toward the orang‐utan exhibit (i.e., they stopped to
view the exhibit). Visitors were selected upon entering the
enclosed visitor viewing area, which provided viewing to
three distinct enclosures as well as a TV monitor and
interactive touch‐screen computers. It is important to note the
‘Don’t Palm Us Off’video only screened within the visitor
center during the campaign (i.e., at data collection times two
and three). Visitors were then monitored to ensure they had
viewed one of the orang‐utan exhibits and were approached
for participation in the research as they turned to exit or after
several minutes had elapsed. Upon completing the anony-
mous surveys, visitors placed these in a clearly marked
“return”box, which was located within the visitor center.
Upon volunteering to take part in the research,
participants were provided with a survey pack. This
‘Don't Palm Us Off’Evaluation 3
contained an information sheet as well as several separate
survey sections, discussed below as relevant to this study.
Visitors were asked to indicate their satisfaction with
their visit to the orang‐utan enclosure across three individual
items. Responses ranged from (1) dissatisﬁed to (5) satisﬁed
and considered: (a) their satisfaction with the overall
experience; (b) their satisfaction with the activity level of
the orang‐utans; and (c) their satisfaction with the size and
features of the exhibit.
Knowledge about orang‐utans
General knowledge about orang‐utans was assessed
using a 10‐item multiple choice quiz. This covered basic
aspects of orang‐utan behavior and ecology, as well as
understanding of conservation threats, consistent with the
type of information often provided on zoo signage. Two
speciﬁc items were expected to be particularly inﬂuenced
by the ‘Don’t Palm Us Off’campaign: Question 8 which
assessed understanding of the major threat to wild orang‐utan
populations (habitat loss); and Question 10 which explored
knowledge of the product most threatening the survival of the
orang‐utan (palm oil). As such, these items were considered
individually, as well as the overall knowledge scores.
Attitudes toward orang‐utans
Attitudes toward orang‐utans were measured using a
10‐item adaptation of the Animal Attitude Scale [Herzog
et al., 1991]. While the original scale assesses general
attitudes toward animals, the modiﬁed scale was designed to
capture attitudes toward orang‐utans speciﬁcally. The scale
has acceptable psychometric properties and has been used
previously in research exploring and documenting changes in
attitudes toward orang‐utans and their conservation [Pearson
et al., 2011]. Participants responded on a 5‐point Likert scale
ranging from strongly disagree (1) to strongly agree (5).
Negatively worded items were reversed prior to analysis such
that a higher score indicates more positive attitudes toward
orang‐utans. Possible scores range from 10 to 50.
As the campaign sought to widely disseminate
information about the plight of orang‐utans in the wild and
the consequences of the growing palm oil industry, it was
expected this may inﬂuence the level of concern about orang‐
utan conservation in the wider community. Subsequently, a
subjective norm measure was included to track these changes
over time and since theoretical models (such as the theory of
planned behavior) link norms around an issue to intentions
for future behavior [Ajzen, 1991]. Participants were asked to
indicate how important they felt the issue of orang‐utan
conservation was to their friends and family [the groups
expected to exert the greatest social inﬂuence; Terry
et al., 2000]. Possible responses ranged from unimportant
(1) through to highly important (4), with an unsure response
category also provided.
Support for palm oil labeling
Participants were asked two questions to directly assess
their support for palm oil labeling: (1) At present it is not
compulsory for palm oil products to be labeled, would you
prefer the government to change legislation to mandate
labeling of palm oil products? (2) If palm oil products were
labeled would this inﬂuence your purchasing decisions as a
shopper? Participants provided a yes, no, or unsure response.
Previous behavior and commitments to support orang‐utan
Participants were asked to report whether in the
previous 12 months they had engaged in any behaviors to
support orang‐utan conservation (donations, avoiding palm
oil products, or purchasing behind the scenes zoo tours with
proceeds supporting conservation projects). This was
included to gain a baseline for prior conservation support.
Following their zoo visit, participants were asked whether
they would be willing to change their future behavior to
support orang‐utan conservation (yes, no, or unsure) and
whether they felt their visit would directly impact on their
future conservation behavior (yes or no). During the
campaign (i.e., data sessions two and three) participants
were also asked whether they had/would complete a ‘Don’t
Palm Us Off’petition post‐card during their visit. The card
image is depicted in Figure 1 below along with the banner of
support from the campaign launch. Petition cards were self‐
addressed to Melbourne Zoo and could be placed in a return
box or mailed back. On the back of the card participants were
asked to tell Food Standards Australia and New Zealand they
wanted a choice regarding what they purchased. A space was
Fig. 1. ‘Don’t Palm Us Off’Petition Postcards (left) and the
‘Don’t Palm Us Off’banner of support (right) which was displayed
at the exhibit during the campaign.
4Pearson et al.
provided for their name and address to indicate their support
for mandatory palm oil labeling.
Visitors also provided background and demographic
information including: age category (18–30, 31–50, or 51
years old); gender; education level (whether participants had
completed an undergraduate university degree); whether they
identiﬁed as vegetarian; and whether they were a pet owner,
from a rural location, had visited a zoo in the previous
12 months, or had visited orang‐utans in their natural habitat.
This information was important to determine the compara-
bility of the visitors at different sampling time points across
the campaign and, as conceptually or on the basis of previous
research, these were considered likely to inﬂuence pro‐animal
attitudes and/or behavior [i.e., Plous, 1991; Driscoll, 1992;
Pifer, 1996; Lukas and Ross, 2005; Signal and Taylor, 2007;
Ross and Gillespie, 2009; MacDonald and Gavin, 2010]. As
the campaign did not run in every Australian state or in other
countries, visitors were also asked to indicate if they were an
interstate or overseas visitor.
A total of 403 participants took part in the research (92
during the baseline, 103 at DPUO 6 months, 100 at DPUO
12 months, and 108 during the follow‐up). The survey
acceptance and return rate was very high across all data
collection sessions, suggesting the sample is representative of
typical Melbourne Zoo visitors (93%, 94%, 94%, and 91%,
respectively). The exhibit structure at Melbourne Zoo is
likely an important factor in this high acceptance and return
rate, with a large visitor center where participants could sit in
a sheltered area and complete the survey, while still viewing
the orang‐utans or the adjacent siamang exhibit. A full
demographic proﬁle of each sample is provided in Table 1
below. Consistent with zoo visitor characteristics reported at
other Australian Zoos [Frede, 2008] and by the Association of
Zoos and Aquariums [AZA, 2011], the majority of visitors at
all time points were female. Approximately three quarters
were pet owners and while approximately one‐ﬁfth of visitors
were zoo members, a high proportion also came to visit
Melbourne Zoo from interstate and overseas [relatively high
levels of international zoo visitation to Australian Zoos were
also reported in Smith, 2013].
Analysis of Data
As the purpose of this research was to identify the
inﬂuence of the ‘Don’t Palm Us Off’campaign on a range of
knowledge, attitudinal, and behavioral measures it was
necessary to ensure any differences between time points were
due to campaign effects rather than differences in sample
characteristics. As reﬂected in Table 1, chi square analysis
was used to determine whether there were signiﬁcant
differences in visitor characteristics across time points.
Where this difference was signiﬁcant (i.e., visitors from a
rural location and international visitors), these variables were
controlled for consistently in all statistical analysis. Visitor
satisfaction variables which differed signiﬁcantly across time
points were also controlled for in the analysis of data (i.e.,
satisfaction with orang‐utan activity level; see section below).
Statistical analysis was performed using ANCOVA and
binary logistic regression. Only signiﬁcant predictors and
time are included and reported in ﬁnal models. For behavioral
variables which had a yes, no, or unsure response, the
regression predicts yes responses, with no and unsure pooled
Visitor satisfaction scores with their overall experience,
orang‐utan activity levels, and the size and features of the
exhibit were consistently high at Melbourne Zoo across the
data collection periods. As reﬂected in Table 2, mean scores
for all satisfaction variables were above four on a ﬁve‐point
scale. There was no signiﬁcant difference in overall
experience satisfaction between time points (F
P>0.05). A small signiﬁcant difference between time points
TABLE 1. Participant characteristics across time
Baseline DPUO 6 months DPUO 12 months Follow‐up x
Gender (female) 67.4% 68% 65.3% 76.2% 3.31
University education 49.5% 41.9% 53.8% 49.0% 2.82
Age (18–30) 44.6% 38.0% 50.5% 38.1%
Age (31–50) 44.6% 46.0% 35.1% 38.1% 9.89
Age (51þ) 10.9% 16.0% 14.4% 23.8%
Vegetarian 12.1% 11.1% 10.4% 3.8% 5.16
Pet owner 75.8% 75.8% 77.3% 77.1% 0.11
Zoo member 19.8% 26.3% 13.5% 19.2% 5.00
Zoo visit <12 months ago 48.4% 51.5% 52.6% 61.5% 3.86
Visited natural habitat 7.6% 10.9% 8.2% 3.7% 3.98
Reside/d in a rural location 34.1% 43.4% 47.9% 27.6% 10.64
International visitors 6.6% 6.1% 10.3% 1.0% 8.15
Interstate visitors 30.8% 22.2% 26.8% 23.8% 2.11
Denotes there was a signiﬁcant difference in the proportion of visitors within the given category across the four time‐points (P<0.05).
‘Don't Palm Us Off’Evaluation 5
was observed for satisfaction with orang‐utan activity
¼3.13, P¼0.026) and satisfaction with the size and
features of the exhibit (F
¼2.89, P¼0.035). As the
assumption of homogeneity of variances was violated,
Dunnett T3 post hoc tests were conducted. The mean
score for satisfaction with orang‐utan activity levels was
signiﬁcantly higher (P¼0.023) at DPUO 12 months
(M¼4.58, SD ¼1.10) than in the baseline (M¼4.18,
SD ¼0.76). All other comparisons were non‐signiﬁcant
Knowledge About Orang‐utans
Zoo visitor scores on the global knowledge about
orang‐utans 10‐item multiple choice quiz remained relatively
stable (between 5.82 and 6.16) across each time point (as seen
in Fig. 2A). An ANCOVA was conducted to determine
whether there was an effect of time on scores. The covariate,
being an international visitor, was signiﬁcantly related to
knowledge levels, with international visitors scoring lower on
TABLE 2. Mean scores and standard deviations for satisfaction variables by time
Baseline DPUO 6 months DPUO 12 months Follow‐up
Overall experience 4.6 (0.80) 4.67 (0.68) 4.71 (0.75) 4.70 (0.69)
Orang‐utan activity 4.18 (1.10) 4.41 (0.93) 4.59 (0.76) 4.43 (0.86)
Size and features of the exhibit 4.45 (0.93) 4.62 (0.77) 4.76 (0.52) 4.71 (0.64)
Fig. 2. Changes in attitudes toward orang‐utans and knowledge about orang‐utans across time (bars represent standard error).
6Pearson et al.
¼4.80, P¼0.029). There was no signiﬁcant
effect of time on overall knowledge about orang‐utans
controlling for international visitors (F
P¼0.274). The two items from the overall knowledge
measure most relevant to the campaign are also depicted in
Figure 2C, D. There were small increases observed in the
amount of visitors who correctly answered habitat loss as the
greatest threat to wild orang‐utans; however baseline scores
indicated many visitors (87%) were already aware of this
issue. A logistic regression, controlling for the inﬂuence of
international visitors revealed there was no signiﬁcant effect
of time (P¼0.437) on the odds of answering this question
correctly (for the full model summary and summaries of all
subsequent regression analyses, please refer to Table 3).
Visitor understanding that palm oil was the product most
responsible for this habitat loss was comparatively lower at
baseline, with only 54% of visitors answering correctly. A
logistic regression revealed time signiﬁcantly contributed to
the prediction of correct responses to this question, model
(3) ¼55.11, P<0.001. The odds of visitors correctly
identifying palm oil as the major product impacting on orang‐
utans were signiﬁcantly higher during both points of the
campaign and during the follow‐up compared to the baseline.
The odds of participants answering correctly (compared to
baseline) were 26.9 times higher 6 months into the campaign
(as only 3% of visitors answered incorrectly at this time point‐
see Fig. 2D), 3 times higher 12 months into the campaign, and
2.5 times higher in the follow‐up. The 95% conﬁdence
TABLE 3. Logistic regression summaries
Odds ratio Exp (B) 95% CI lower 95% CI upper Wald df Sig.
Habitat loss question correct
Baseline (ref) 2.72 3 0.437
DPUO 6 months 1.20 0.48 3.03 0.15 1 0.697
DPUO 12 months 2.31 0.82 6.54 2.49 1 0.115
Follow‐up 1.51 0.57 3.99 0.70 1 0.403
International 0.13 0.05 0.35 16.00 1 <0.001
Palm oil question correct
Baseline (ref) 34.47 3 <0.001
DPUO 6 months 26.88 7.94 91.06 27.95 1 <0.001
DPUO 12 months 3.04 1.61 5.73 11.82 1 0.001
Follow‐up 2.55 1.40 4.67 9.25 1 0.002
Prefer mandatory labeling
Baseline (ref) 18.04 3 <0.001
DPUO 6 months 3.95 1.74 8.95 10.82 1 0.001
DPUO 12 months 3.80 1.69 8.55 10.39 1 0.001
Follow‐up 3.25 1.49 7.08 8.74 1 0.003
International 0.17 0.06 0.43 13.49 1 <0.001
Labeling would influence purchases
Baseline (ref) 22.09 3 <0.001
DPUO 6 months 3.29 1.57 6.88 9.96 1 0.002
DPUO 12 months 5.20 2.26 11.96 15.04 1 <0.001
Follow‐up 3.54 1.68 7.50 10.95 1 0.001
International 0.29 0.11 0.77 6.22 1 0.013
Willing to change future behavior
Baseline (ref) 18.86 3 <0.001
DPUO 6 months 2.90 1.47 5.74 9.37 1 0.002
DPUO 12 months 3.74 1.81 7.72 12.76 1 <0.001
Follow‐up 3.18 1.60 6.33 10.87 1 0.001
International 0.17 0.07 0.44 13.29 1 <0.001
Visit impacted specifically on future conservation behavior
Baseline (ref) 9.44 3 0.024
DPUO 6 months 2.26 1.26 4.06 7.41 1 0.006
DPUO 12 months 2.18 1.21 3.95 6.63 1 0.010
Follow‐up 1.70 0.96 3.01 3.35 1 0.067
Have engaged in at least one of the conservation behaviors in the previous 12 months
Baseline (ref) 9.16 3 0.027
DPUO 6 months 1.39 0.77 2.51 1.19 1 0.275
DPUO 12 months 2.16 1.20 3.91 6.54 1 0.011
Follow‐up 2.11 1.19 3.76 6.43 1 0.011
Perception of the subjective norm as highly important
Baseline (ref) 15.70 3 0.001
DPUO 6 months 1.73 0.94 3.20 3.08 1 0.079
DPUO 12 months 3.12 1.67 5.82 12.82 1 <0.001
Follow‐up 2.68 1.47 4.90 10.25 1 0.001
International 0.25 0.08 0.77 5.88 1 0.01
‘Don't Palm Us Off’Evaluation 7
interval for the odds ratio for DPUO at 6 months was however
very large, again as a result of the very high proportion
of correct answers at this time point, with a lower estimate
of 7.9 and an upper estimate of 91.1.
Attitudes Toward Orang‐utans
Attitudes toward orang‐utans also increased across the
campaign period and this was sustained into the follow‐up (as
seen in Fig. 2B). Mean scores at baseline were already very
positive (above 42 on a 50 point scale) and rose further to over
45 at the conclusion of the research. An ANCOVA was
performed to examine whether these increases over time
were signiﬁcant. Due to signiﬁcant negative skew in the
attitude variable the data were reﬂected and a square root
transformation applied. The ANCOVA revealed the covari-
ate, satisfaction with orang‐utan activity levels was signiﬁ-
cantly related to more positive attitudes toward orang‐utans
¼6.59, P¼0.011). The effect of time on attitudes
toward orang‐utans was also signiﬁcant controlling for
activity level satisfaction (F
¼5.25, P¼0.001). Planned
contrasts (based on adjusted marginal means) revealed that
attitudes 6 months into the ‘Don’t Palm Us Off’campaign
(P¼0.008), 12 months into the campaign (P¼0.016) and at
the follow‐up (P<0.001) were all signiﬁcantly higher than
baseline attitudes toward orang‐utans.
Support for Palm Oil Labeling
Support for palm oil labeling increased from the
baseline (69.6% reporting they would like mandatory
labeling) through to 6 months into the campaign (90%
reporting they would like mandatory labeling). As seen in
Figure 3A, this increase remained quite stable over time. A
Fig. 3. Support for palm oil labeling and behavioral intentions over time.
8Pearson et al.
logistic regression revealed time (P<0.001) signiﬁcantly
predicted whether visitors would prefer mandatory palm oil
labeling, model x
(4) ¼29.89, P<0.001. The odds of
visitors responding they would like mandatory labeling
were over three times greater during the campaign and
follow‐up relative to baseline. The odds of reporting support
for mandatory labeling were signiﬁcantly lower for interna-
tional visitors (P<0.001, refer to Table 3 for further detail).
There were also marked increases in participant
responses to whether mandatory labeling would inﬂuence
their purchasing decisions (this rose from 66.3% at baseline to
87% 6 months into the campaign, as seen in Fig. 3B). This too
remained quite stable for the remainder of the campaign and
into the follow‐up. Logistic regression, model x
P<0.001, revealed there was a signiﬁcant effect of time
(P<0.001) on whether visitors responded labeling would
inﬂuence their purchasing behavior, controlling for the effect
of international visitors. The odds ratio indicates the odds of
visitors responding yes were 3.3 times higher at DPUO
6 months, 5.2 times higher at DPUO 12 months, and still 3.5
times higher in the follow‐up (compared with the baseline).
Again international visitors had reduced odds of answering yes.
Previous Behavior and Commitments to Support
At baseline 60.9% of visitors responded they would be
willing to change their behavior to support orang‐utan
conservation. This increased over the campaign and remained
high in the follow up (as seen in Fig. 3C). Time was a
signiﬁcant predictor of whether participants reported being
willing to change their future behavior (P<0.001), control-
ling for international visitors, model x
P<0.001. The odds of visitors reporting willingness to
change their future behavior were approximately three times
higher at all subsequent time points relative to baseline.
When asked whether the visit to the orang‐utan exhibit
speciﬁcally would impact on future conservation behavior,
visitors most often answered yes during the ‘Don’t Palm Us
Off’campaign (refer to Fig. 3D). A logistic regression
revealed time (P¼0.024) was a signiﬁcant predictor of
responding yes, model x
(3) ¼9.55, P¼0.023. The odds of
visitors indicating the visit would impact their future behavior
were 2.3 and 2.2 times higher during the campaign
respectively, compared with the baseline. The follow up
did not differ signiﬁcantly from baseline (P>0.05).
There were also changes evident regarding actual
behavioral action. At baseline, 18.5% of visitors reported
having donated to a wildlife charity supporting orang‐utans in
the previous year. This increased to 23.8% 6‐month into the
campaign and 27.8% 12 months into the campaign. This
reduced slightly in the follow up to 22.2%. A similar pattern
was observed for intentional purchasing of palm oil free
products. Only 18.7% of visitors reported avoiding palm oil
products at baseline, compared with 28.7% 6 months into the
campaign, 38.1% 12 months into the campaign and 38.9% at
Participant responses to these two items were combined
with participation in behind the scenes zoo tours to create a
composite measure of orang‐utan conservation behavioral
support in the previous 12 months (yes was recorded for
engaging in any of the three selected behaviors, while no was
recorded if participants answered no to all three questions).
The combined conservation behavior data revealed 33% of
visitors had engaged in at least one conservation behavior at
baseline. This increased to 40.6%, 51.5%, and 50.9% at
DPUO 6 months, 12 months, and the follow‐up, respectively.
Logistic regression analysis indicated time contributed
signiﬁcantly to previous conservation behavior (yes com-
pared to no), model x
(3) ¼9.39, P¼0.025. While there was
no signiﬁcant difference between DPUO 6 months and the
baseline (P¼0.275); by the end of the campaign and in
the follow‐up, there were signiﬁcant increases in the odds
people had supported orang‐utan conservation through one of
the target behaviors (P¼0.011). This was twice as high at the
end of the campaign and at the follow‐up compared with at
A majority of visitors also demonstrated behavioral
support for palm oil labeling by completing a ‘Don’t Palm
Us Off’card during the campaign. At the mid‐point of the
campaign (6 months) 73.3% of visitors surveyed reported
already completing or intending to complete a petition card
during their visit. This was similar at the end of the campaign
(12 months) with 74.5% of those surveyed completing or
intending to complete a card. Behavioral observations by the
researcher conﬁrm a majority of these visitors did complete
Following the changes in attitudes and increases in
behavioral support for orang‐utan conservation, there were
also pronounced shifts in visitor perceptions of the impor-
tance of orang‐utan conservation to their friends and family.
The changes are depicted in Figure 4. Visitor perceptions that
friends and family felt orang‐utan conservation to be highly
important increased from 28% at baseline to 54% at the end of
the campaign and remained stable at the follow up (53%).
Decreases were also seen in the unimportant and unsure
categories. A binary logistic regression analysis revealed
there was a signiﬁcant effect of time on highly important
responses (compared with all other categories), model
(4) ¼23.8, P<0.001. The odds of visitors rating the
subjective norm as highly important were signiﬁcantly
different 12 months into the campaign (P<0.001) and at
the follow‐up (P¼0.001) compared with baseline; 3.1 times
and 2.7 times higher respectively at these time points.
With mean scores above four on all satisfaction
variables, the data suggest visitors generally rated their
‘Don't Palm Us Off’Evaluation 9
experience at Melbourne Zoo very favorably and were happy
with the activity of the orang‐utans on display and the zoo
environment. There were also slight (although non‐signiﬁ-
cant) increases in overall experience satisfaction at baseline
through to the campaign period. This suggests there was no
negative impact of the campaign and the targeted educational
messages provided at the exhibit on visitor satisfaction levels.
This complements the view of Packer  that people can
“learn for fun”in the context of the zoo environment. In fact,
the highest levels of visitors reporting the visit would directly
impact on their conservation behavior (64%) occurred during
the campaign. This reinforces that zoo experiences can be
highly satisfying and enjoyable for visitors, while also
providing education which encourages conservation action
[Ballantyne et al., 2007].
Knowledge About Orang‐utans
Overall knowledge about orang‐utans was quite low at
baseline (below 6 on a 10‐point scale). Perhaps unsurpris-
ingly, given the tailored focus of the campaign to the palm
oil issue, there were no signiﬁcant increases in overall
knowledge across the campaign. There was a marked
difference in palm oil awareness however, with the odds of
participants answering the question about the product most
threatening the orang‐utan correctly signiﬁcantly higher
during the campaign than at baseline. Importantly, this
knowledge was sustained at the follow‐up, even after the
campaign had ended and focus was drawn away from this
It is pertinent to note that at DPUO 12 months there was
some maintenance work occurring at the exhibit for a portion
of the data collection period, with the campaign television
advertisement not playing on the exhibit screen at this time.
This likely accounts for the reduction in correct responses
from DPUO 6 to 12 months (although still signiﬁcantly
higher than baseline). This commercial was not played at all
during the follow‐up, hence the higher proportion of correct
responses at this time compared with the baseline provides
tentative support for the wide‐reaching effects of the
campaign in educating the broader public about this issue
(i.e., correct responses at this time reﬂect pre‐existing
knowledge about palm oil rather than on‐exhibit learning).
This is likely a result of the media coverage the campaign
received and the creation of social networking sites
supporting the mandatory labeling cause. However, an
important limitation to acknowledge of the present research
is that this study sought to explore the effectiveness of the
campaign as a whole, and subsequently does not have the
ability to determine which speciﬁc elements of the campaign
had the strongest impacts on visitor learning or conservation
intentions/behaviors. A key direction for any future research
will be to explicitly ask where people have acquired their
knowledge from, such that on‐site and off‐site learning
facilitated by zoos can be accurately assessed, as well as other
sources of conservation understanding (e.g., media, books,
In combination, the ﬁndings suggest that although there
is still a need for improvement in the broader educational
outcomes of a visit to the orang‐utan exhibit, highly tailored
messages with conservation relevance can be delivered
effectively to zoo visitors on exhibit and the wider public
alike. This is of signiﬁcance given the paucity of such
evidence to date [Mazur and Clark, 2001; Marino et al., 2010]
and the importance of such education in helping to address
the rapid loss of biodiversity occurring at present [IUCN,
2010]. The lasting educational effect of the campaign
6 months after its conclusion also provides encouragement
for zoos that such investments are worthwhile, with the
knowledge about palm oil retained and the public able to
make more informed purchasing decisions into the future.
Attitudes Toward Orang‐utans
Attitudes toward orang‐utans were very positive at
baseline and across the ‘Don’t Palm Us Off’campaign these
were observed to rise signiﬁcantly higher than these baseline
levels. The mean score at follow‐up (45.48) has important
practical signiﬁcance, as it represents a majority of strongly
agree responses to all items and demonstrates evaluations of
this species are extremely positive, nearing the maximum
possible on the scale. There are several potential explanations
for these rises. It may be that increased awareness of the
palm oil issue, and the knowledge that human actions are
contributing to marked decreases in orang‐utan populations,
promoted greater empathy and concern for orang‐utans,
Fig. 4. Visitor ratings of the subjective norm across time.
10 Pearson et al.
which is reﬂected in the attitude scores. It could reﬂect the
wider effects of the campaign with media coverage providing
more footage of orang‐utans and discussion of their
intelligence and genetic relatedness to humans, which also
may foster more positive attitudes. Or the increases may stem
from shifts in the social norms surrounding this issue. Over
the campaign, the perception of orang‐utan conservation as
highly important to friends and family increased signiﬁcantly,
whilst marked reductions were seen for the indifferent or
unimportant categories. Given the association between social
norms and attitudes, it seems attitudes may also have
increased as a result of social inﬂuences [Terry et al., 2000].
Regardless of the speciﬁc cause, these increases in attitudes
are an important change associated with the campaign, in: (a)
demonstrating public support and concern for the plight of
this species; and (b) since attitudes often shape intentions for
related behaviors [Ajzen, 2001; Armitage and Conner, 2001].
Support for Palm Oil Labeling and Behavioral
As knowledge of the palm oil issue grew and attitudes
increased, so did support for palm oil labeling. Although a
majority of visitors indicated they would prefer mandatory
labeling at baseline (70%), this increased signiﬁcantly once
the campaign commenced to 90%. The odds of visitors
responding yes to this question were three times greater at all
time points once the campaign commenced, relative to
baseline, reﬂecting a pronounced impact of the campaign on
public support for mandatory labeling. These increases in
support for labeling were echoed in participant responses to
whether labeling would change their purchasing behavior.
The odds of participants responding yes were signiﬁcantly
higher at all three time points relative to baseline, with the
odds of participants at the follow‐up indicating labeling
would inﬂuence their purchases still 3.2 times greater than at
baseline. Taken together, these results suggest that when
educated about the impacts of human behaviors on other
animal species, people would prefer to be able to make an
informed choice about their actions and a majority would try
to reduce their impact where possible [Harrison et al., 2005].
Consistent with this interpretation, increases were seen
in charitable donations during the campaign and there was a
particularly pronounced rise in the proportion of visitors
reporting they were intentionally avoiding unsustainably
sourced palm oil products over time. At baseline, less than
one in ﬁve visitors reported avoiding unsustainably sourced
palm oil products (18.7%). A 10% increase occurred 6 months
into the campaign and a further 9.4% through to the end of the
campaign (38.1%). This ﬁgure even increased slightly at the
follow‐up to 38.9%, which provides support the behavioral
effects of the campaign and education may also be lasting.
Although the sample size represents a small minority of the
wider Australian public, the evidence that education does
inﬂuence consumer action in this context is noteworthy
[Stern, 1999]. If similar shifts occurred across the broader
population (i.e., an increase following the campaign such that
nearly 40% of the population is avoiding unsustainably
sourced palm oil products where possible) this has the
potential to send a very strong message to industry, and to
encourage shifts to certiﬁed sustainable palm oil or to
The power of consumers and importance of maintain-
ing a positive brand perception has already been demonstrat-
ed by several major companies in Australia, with Cadbury
and KFC recently making transitions away from palm oil use
due to environmental and health concerns [Sydney Morning
Herald, 2009; Cadbury Australia, 2011]. As such, it seems
public interest in this issue may help drive a market for
certiﬁed sustainable palm oil for use in Australian markets
should companies wish to continue using this product (an
explicit goal of the campaign and something Zoos Victoria
are currently seeking to promote through another new
initiative in 2013‐the “Zoopermarket”—which allows
visitors on‐exhibit to scan common grocery products and
determine whether the company uses, or has made a time‐
bound commitment to, certiﬁed sustainable palm oil
products). A high proportion of visitors also suggested
they would be willing to change their future behavior to
support orang‐utan conservation in some way (over 80% of
visitors during the campaign and the follow‐up). A signiﬁcant
barrier at present is the lack of labeling laws surrounding the
use of palm oil, however if mandatory labeling of palm oil as
an ingredient in food products becomes compulsory (a bill
which was recently under parliamentary consideration but did
) this may lead to even greater consumer impacts
in the future.
GENERAL SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS
Across the proﬁle of outcomes, from knowledge, to
attitudes, to behaviors, and even social norms, there is robust
evidence in support of the effectiveness of this innovative
campaign by Melbourne Zoo. Through on‐exhibit informa-
tion, social networking/new media (i.e., Zoos Victoria ‘Don’t
Palm Us Off’website‐with >138,000 unique views during
the campaign, Facebook cause sites‐with >33,000 members
following the campaign, and the You Tube video), and
broader media coverage, it seems the campaign was
successful in educating zoo visitors and the general public
alike about the palm oil issue. This in turn, led to more
concern about the species, marked shifts in social norms
surrounding the importance of the conservation of orang‐
utans, and subsequently also higher attitudes toward this
Great Ape ‘cousin.’Unsurprisingly, these changes were
Coinciding with the “Don’t Palm Us Off’campaign, in 2009, a bill was introduced to Australian Parliament titled the “Truth in Labeling Bill”to make listing
palm oil as an ingredient on food products compulsory. Data from Melbourne Zoo (petition signatures) as well as preliminary ﬁndings of this research were
provided to members of parliament in the generation of the bill.
‘Don't Palm Us Off’Evaluation 11
associated with support for mandatory palm oil labeling and
saw increases in self‐reported donations to conservation
organizations supporting orang‐utans and decreases in
self‐reported unsustainably sourced palm oil purchasing.
Collectively these demonstrate the successful nature of the
campaign and reinforce the role zoos can play as agents for
education and conservation in society, consistent with their
shifting organizational purpose [Patrick et al., 2007]. More
broadly, they also attest to the importance of continued
innovation in zoo education practices [Broad and Weiler,
1998; Andersen, 2003; Penn, 2009; Vischer et al., 2009] and
highlight how zoos can complement traditional education
(i.e., signage and animal displays in isolation) with focused
conservation education messages, which cover both the cause
of conservation threats as well as what people can do to help
[Falk, 2005]. Furthermore, the use of new media in this
campaign (i.e., disseminating the campaign video on You
Tube as well as screening it at the exhibit; providing an online
petition; and developing a Facebook page and dedicated web
page through the Zoos Victoria website) demonstrated how
traditional and newer forms of educational mediums can be
combined to enhance dissemination and efﬁcacy [Lievrouw
and Livingstone, 2002; Kahn and Kellner, 2004; Pearson
et al., 2011].
Future research can build upon the current ﬁndings
through documenting and evaluating other zoo‐based
educational campaigns and building a knowledge base to
enable comparison of the efﬁcacy of different campaigns and/
or innovative educational strategies. Similarly, given the
success of this campaign based on the data available, larger
scale studies should be conducted for subsequent campaigns
which utilize bigger samples of zoo visitors, complemented
with samples from the wider public, to track changes across
the campaign duration. The addition of direct behavioral
measures would also strengthen the evaluation of future
educational initiatives, although it is pertinent to note that in
excess of 160,000 people returned petitions for mandatory
palm oil labeling during the campaign period, with just over
50% of these on‐site at the zoo and the remainder from
engagement with the Zoos Victoria website, reﬂecting wide‐
spread community‐level behavioral action and support.
Furthermore, the Zoo received some 45,000 supportive
enquiries from the community during the campaign period,
which is indicative of the ability of the campaign to evoke
thought and promote understanding and action. Given the
negative relationship between international visitors and
outcome variables in this study, exploration of geographic
and cultural variations in palm oil awareness/support/use and
conservation issues will be another important area for future
research. Unfortunately, further exploration within this
sample was not possible due to the small total number of
international visitors (N¼23). On the basis of this study
however, it seems zoos do have a signiﬁcant role to play in
education for species conservation through such initiatives
and the continued development of cutting‐edge visitor
education practices. In the current ‘Anthropocene,’this
advancement and focus upon visitor education and conser-
vation could not be more timely, for accurate information
gives individuals the power to evaluate the consequences of
their actions, and to make informed decisions about future
behavior, consistent with personal values and ethical
frameworks [Clayton and Myers, 2009]. As emphasized by
Jane Goodall, “Let us remember, always, that we are the
consumers. By exercising free choice, by choosing what to
buy, what not to buy, we have the power, collectively, to
change the ethics of business, of industry. We have the power
to exert immense power for good…” [Goodall and Berman,
2003, p. 240].
We wish to thank Melbourne Zoo for their partnership
in this research.
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‘Don't Palm Us Off’Evaluation 13