Children naturally get excited when they see animals. No matter if it’s their neighbor’s furry cat or a stray dog, kids never step back from petting the furry, feathered or finned friends. The innate attraction of kids towards animals makes them share a special bond with these creatures.
While some people claim that animals should not spend their entire lives in captivity, others recognize how important zoos are in teaching kids how to be compassionate and empathic towards animals. However, it is important to be mentioned that zoos that keep animals in poor conditions are certainly not a good example for kids. However, these are just a few exceptions.
Most zoos are functioning based on strict laws and regulations that force them to provide excellent conditions to the animals, very similar to their natural habitats. Moreover, most zoos are run by animal lovers who make great efforts to ensure the appropriate environment for each animal species.
According to the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), there are over 181 million people who visit zoos and aquariums each year. Moreover, according to a 2006 publication Why Zoos and Aquariums Matter, it has been confirmed that zoo and aquarium visits contribute to positive conservation knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors in adult visitors. Obviously, adults who have compassion towards animals share their knowledge and attitudes with their children.
So, let’s explore how exactly do zoos and aquariums get kids excited about animal rights:
Interactions with real-life animals
Nowadays, there are a number of educational Tv shows that aim to educate the public about animals and conservation efforts. They provide kids and adults with quality images from the natural habitats of different animal species, explore their behaviors, and teach the public about the risks the animals face sometimes.
However, there is no way kids can learn more about animals from Tv shows or movies than if they interact with the animals in the real world. That being said, there is nothing better than an actual lion to teach kids everything about this species. What lions eat? How do they reproduce? And, what is the ideal natural habit? These are all things that kids can learn instantly by seeing a living, breathing lion, which makes learning active and engaging.
Knowledge about threatened and endangered species
One of the factors that make zoos very important in our world is the fact that they save species from extinction and other dangers. One of the primary functions of zoos is to save endangered animals from habitat loss, hunters, population declines, and many other risk factors.
For example, there are many species that might not still be on our world if it wasn’t for the conservation work of zoos. For example, the Arabian Oryx, the Przewalski’s Horse, the California Condor, or the Eastern Bongo were all endangered species, due to habitat loss or hunters, that were brought back thanks to worldwide zoos’ efforts.
So, zoos and aquariums are often home to endangered animals that won’t be able to survive in their natural habitat. This offers kids the opportunity to gain knowledge about the root causes that make animals all over the world to be in danger, such as habitat destruction, poaching, and the exotic animal trade.
Zoos and aquariums are a kid-friendly environment
It isn’t just the presence of different animal species that make kids feel drawn by zoos and aquariums. These places are also designed to be kid-friendly in order to engage children to actively learn about animals.
According to a National Poll from the Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums, 89% of kids claim to have learned more about marine mammals at a real-life zoo or aquarium than they did in school. Moreover, 88% of respondents agreed that there is a lot more to learn about animals in such places than from movies or Tv programs. That being said, it isn’t a surprise that zoos and aquariums are excellent non-formal educational tools for kids because they help them foster a real connection between them and the animals.
Moreover, zoos and aquariums are environments that foster learning by playing. For example, many zoos use costumes to engage kids to listen to the explanations of the staff. And, for example, what other funnier way would be to teach kids about dinosaurs than wearing a realistic dinosaur costume that allows you to roam, blink, or roar?
Zoos and aquariums also have a number of fun activities that engage kids to interact with animals as much as possible. For example, some zoos allow kids to volunteer to go inside the enclosures of the animals with the staff to feed the animals, brush them, or play with them. This can certainly have a huge impact on kids as it teaches them how animals need to be treated and encourages them to feel compassion towards them.
Another innovative modern zoo setting that is picking momentum these days is when zoos are caging the visitors for their own safety and protection and take them to a ride in the natural habitat of the animals. So, kids get the chance to observe even the smallest detail of the animals’ lives.
Another kid-friendly feature of zoos and aquariums are the playgrounds. Whenever kids start to get tired by walking around the place, they can always have a recreational break at the playground. Not only that the playgrounds are a great strategy to attract kids to come to the zoo in the first play but they also add a little bit to their overall pleasant experience at the zoo.
Teaching kids why they must be compassionate towards animals and why they must make kinder choices to reduce the suffering of all animals is an invaluable lesson. That being said, all zoos and aquariums are places dedicated to animal care and welfare, conservation, education, and research that inspires respect and love for animals and nature. That is why zoos and aquariums are great non-formal educational tools as kids can learn and get excited about animal rights.