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The global reach of zoos and aquariums in visitor numbers and conservation expenditures

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  • Swiss Federal Office for Agriculture

Abstract and Figures

A survey conducted by the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums, in collaboration with national and regional zoo and aquarium associations, showed that annually more than 700 million people visit zoos and aquariums worldwide and are thus potentially exposed to environmental education. Furthermore, the world zoo and aquarium community reportedly spends about US$ 350 million on wildlife conservation each year. Therefore, the world zoo and aquarium community has the potential to play an important role in both environmental education and wildlife conservation. Systematic reviews are encouraged to provide further evidence for the effectiveness of zoos and aquariums as centers of education and conservation.
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Zoo Biology 30 : 566– 569 (2011)
BRIEF REPORT
The Global Reach of Zoos and
Aquariums in Visitor Numbers and
Conservation Expenditures
Markus Gusset
and Gerald Dick
World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) Executive Office, Gland,
Switzerland
A survey conducted by the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums, in
collaboration with national and regional zoo and aquarium associations, showed
that annually more than 700 million people visit zoos and aquariums worldwide
and are thus potentially exposed to environmental education. Furthermore, the
world zoo and aquarium community reportedly spends about US$350million on
wildlife conservation each year. Therefore, the world zoo and aquarium community
has the potential to play an important role in both environmental education and
wildlife conservation. Systematic reviews are encouraged to provide further
evidence for the effectiveness of zoos and aquariums as centers of education and
conservation. Zoo Biol 30:566–569, 2011. c2010 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
Keywords: aquarium; conservation; education; funding; visitor; WAZA; zoo
INTRODUCTION
Modern zoos and aquariums increasingly see themselves as centers of
education and conservation [Miller et al., 2004], as stipulated in the revised World
Zoo and Aquarium Conservation Strategy [WAZA, 2005]. There is in fact a dual
mission of many zoos and aquariums to be leaders in both education and
conservation [Patrick et al., 2007]. As for example with the Congo Gorilla Forest
exhibit at Bronx Zoo or the Masoala Rainforest exhibit at Zurich Zoo, education
Published online 6 December 2010 in Wiley Online Library (wileyonlinelibrary.com).
DOI 10.1002/zoo.20369
Received 7 June 2010; Revised 29 July 2010; Accepted 25 October 2010
Correspondence to: Markus Gusset, World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) Executive Office,
IUCN Conservation Centre, Rue Mauverney 28, 1196 Gland, Switzerland. E-mail: markus.gusset@waza.org
rr
2010 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
and conservation increasingly complement and reinforce each other [Rabb and
Saunders, 2005; Fraser and Wharton, 2007]; both are contingent upon people being
exposed to and spending money on such initiatives.
However, as the last global survey was performed nearly 20 years ago
[IUDZG/CBSG, 1993], there is no up-to-date estimate available of the number of
people who are potentially exposed to environmental education, whether formal or
informal, at zoos and aquariums. Davey [2007] showed that regional zoo and
aquarium attendance may indeed vary over time. Furthermore, we entirely lack an
estimate of the financial expenditures of the world zoo and aquarium community on
wildlife conservation. We thus sought to obtain current figures on the global reach of
zoos and aquariums in visitor numbers and conservation expenditures.
METHODS
We approached 12 national and regional zoo and aquarium associations,
covering all regions of the world, to provide a figure regarding the following two
questions: How many visitors did your member institutions receive in 2008? How
much money was spent on wildlife conservation by your member institutions in
2008? (Wildlife conservation in this context encompasses in situ conservation of wild
species and habitats, including related ex situ work). Although all 12 associations
submitted figures on visitor numbers that they sought to obtain from their more than
1000 members, only seven associations submitted figures on conservation
expenditures.
RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
About 600 million people reportedly visited zoos and aquariums worldwide in
2008. When comparing zoo and aquarium attendance between the last global survey
in 1990 and 2008 (Table 1), those associations reporting higher numbers in the
current survey represent regions with established documenting structures (North
America, Australasia, and Europe), suggestive of a growing number of visits in these
regions [cf. Davey, 2007]. Conversely, those associations reporting lower numbers in
the current survey represent regions where obtaining comprehensive numbers is
more challenging (Latin America, Africa, and Asia). Although the current survey
was specifically aimed at collecting documented figures from the associations’
TABLE 1. Annual Number of Visits to Zoos and Aquariums Worldwide in 1990 [IUDZG/
CBSG, 1993], 2008 (This Survey), and Adjusted (in Millions of People)
1990 2008 Adjusted
a
North America 106 186 186
Latin America 61 11 61
Africa 15 8 15
Australasia 6 17 17
Europe 125 142 142
Asia 308 221 308
Global total 621 585 729
a
1990 figures for Latin America, Africa, and Asia. 2008 figures for North America,
Australasia, and Europe.
567Visitor Numbers and Conservation Expenditures
Zoo Biology
members, which generally proved feasible for the former three regions, the previous
survey [IUDZG/CBSG, 1993] relied on the associations’ estimates of zoo and
aquarium attendance. This may be more appropriate for the latter three regions,
given the underestimates in documented figures confirmed by those associations in
the current survey. Considering this variation in reporting between the two surveys
and assuming a largely unchanged number of existing zoos and aquariums, it seems
legitimate to adjust the results accordingly (Table 1), in which case zoos and
aquariums worldwide receive more than 700 million visits annually. This figure,
which may include multiple individual visits, is most certainly an underestimate
[WAZA, 2009] and is unparalleled by any other group of conservation-oriented
institutions.
The world zoo and aquarium community reportedly spent about US$350 mil-
lion on wildlife conservation in 2008. This amount includes the expenses of zoo-
based conservation organizations, but given that only about half of the associations
submitted figures on conservation expenditures (see above), it is most certainly an
underestimate. Across regions, zoos and aquariums in North America and Europe
spent the most by far on wildlife conservation (97% of expenses reported). In
relation to major international conservation organizations (Fig. 1), the world zoo
and aquarium community is among the main providers of conservation funding.
CONCLUSIONS
The large number of visitors received and amount of conservation money spent
suggest that the world zoo and aquarium community has the potential to play an
important role in both environmental education and wildlife conservation
[for examples, see Zimmermann et al., 2007; Dick and Gusset, 2010]. However, it
remains largely unclear how education initiatives affect visitor behavior [Ogden and
Heimlich, 2009] and how financial expenditures influence conservation efforts
Fig. 1. Amount of money spent on wildlife conservation by major international conservation
organizations (figures taken from annual reports) and the world zoo and aquarium
community (this survey) in 2008 (in thousands of US$).
568 Gusset and Dick
Zoo Biology
[Ferraro and Pattanayak, 2006]. Regarding the latter, Gusset and Dick [2010]
showed that increasing support provided by zoos and aquariums, particularly
financial, indeed leads to a significantly higher overall impact of a conservation
project. Systematic reviews [Pullin and Stewart, 2006] are encouraged to provide
further evidence for the effectiveness of zoos and aquariums as centers of education
and conservation.
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
We are grateful to ALPZA, AMACZOOA, AZA, CAZA, CAZG, EARAZA,
EAZA, JAZA, PAAZAB, SAZARC, SEAZA, and ZAA for providing figures on
visitor numbers and conservation expenditures. Laura Penn and three anonymous
referees kindly provided helpful comments on this paper.
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569Visitor Numbers and Conservation Expenditures
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... This recognises the current bias towards large mammals and considers it a legitimate and potentially highly effective conservation strategy, owing to their ability to act as flagship species (Hutchins and Wemmer 1991;Leader-Williams and Dublin 2000). The global zoo and aquarium community spends approximately $350 million annually on in situ wildlife conservation activities and represents the third largest conservation organisation contributor globally (Gusset and Dick 2011). Although the majority of institutions contribute less than 5% of their operating income to in situ conservation activities, these contributions significantly impact global wildlife conservation efforts, with greater funding from ex situ institutions showing a positive relationship with in situ project success and viability (Bettinger and Quinn 2000;Gusset and Dick 2010;Mace et al. 2007). ...
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