New Scientific Analysis Debunks Zoos’ Education Claims

In Defense of Animals says report shows zoos mislead public and media

San Rafael, Calif. – A new scientific critique questions claims by zoos and aquariums to be educating the public, finding that a key study conducted by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) is fatally flawed in its conclusions. IDA is calling on zoos and aquariums to stop misleading the public and admit they have no evidence that zoos have a positive educational impact.

“There is no compelling evidence to date that zoos and aquariums promote attitude changes, education or interest in conservation in their visitors, despite claims to the contrary,” stated lead author Dr. Lori Marino, a neuroscientist at Emory University and expert in dolphin and whale intelligence.

The new study entitled “Do Zoos and Aquariums Promote Attitude Change in Visitors?”, published in the peer-reviewed journal Society & Animals, is a critical evaluation of a 2007 non-peer reviewed study widely used by the AZA as evidence of zoos’ and aquariums’ education impact. Marino’s analysis found the AZA study to be so methodologically flawed as to be un-interpretable at best. Marino and her co-authors found at least six major weaknesses in the AZA study, questioning the accuracy of zoos’ claimed educational impact.

“As the public becomes more aware of animal welfare issues, zoos and aquariums are desperately trying to justify holding animals for public display, especially those in extremely inappropriate conditions,” says Catherine Doyle, IDA elephant campaign director. “This important study debunks the myth that displaying wild animals in unnatural and inadequate exhibits educates the public and promotes conservation.”

Animals such as orcas and elephants have long been the focus of intense controversy because zoos and aquariums cannot provide the space, social networks and natural conditions these animals need. Inadequate exhibits cause these animals to suffer debilitating captivity-related conditions and die prematurely.

Marino’s study is particularly relevant following the recent death of an orca trainer at SeaWorld, which is AZA accredited. A Congressional committee will hold an oversight hearing on marine mammals in captivity next week that IDA hopes will lead to stricter regulations. Marino will be testifying at that hearing.

Dr. Lori Marino is available for interview.

You can read the study at http://www.nbb.emory.edu/faculty/personal/documents/MarinoetalAZAStudy.pdf
For more information visit www.HelpElephants.com

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

April 22, 2010

Contact: Catherine Doyle, 323-301-5730, zoos@idausa.org

In Defense of Animals is an international animal protection organization located in San Rafael, Calif. dedicated to protecting animals' rights, welfare, and habitat through education, outreach, and our hands-on rescue facilities in Mumbai, India, Cameroon, Africa, and rural Mississippi. _________________________________________________________________________________

IN DEFENSE OF ANIMALS • 3010 KERNER BLVD. • SAN RAFAEL, CA 94901 • 415-448-0048

16 Comments on “New Scientific Analysis Debunks Zoos’ Education Claims”

  • Carol Ammens wrote on 22 April, 2010, 14:39

    Is that congressional committee meeting on captive marine mammals going to be televised on C-SPAN? I’d love to watch that and is IDA planning to be there? Thanks.

  • Meleah wrote on 30 April, 2010, 20:45

    Thank you for bringing this important issue to my attention. I have always agreed with no more that rescue captivity for these awesome creatures. Human education is important too, that is another reason these facilities ( zoos) can be justified for me. In my eyes there is no reason a perfectly healthy animal should be kept in an inadequate captivity. Even the ones who are not able to fend for themselves should be given as close as we can provide for a comfortable living space for them. Otherwise, just put them out of their misery, instead of forcing them to live a life of it. Or better yet, stop breeding them in captivity. Unless they’re endangered, then more power to ya. Com’on folks! Lets do what we can for this dwindling world!

  • Sini Keto wrote on 30 April, 2010, 22:24

    Noted and sign !

  • EPAR wrote on 1 May, 2010, 5:24

    There is here nothing educational if humans look at elephants, lions , bown bears, polar bears etc. living in jail -zoo because every of these species are part of many different biodiversities in different climate parts and it is unnormal keeping them in one place and their life is atypical in zoo-jails .That is only more one form of business for humans own advantage and form of cruelty to the animals .Also keeping these animals in zoo-jails is not a way for protection them from species extinction in the nature but just a way for trade with them for humans own advantage . We suggest all zoo-jails all over the world be closed and all `prisoners` be back to the nature – by putting them in sactuaries in necessary climate levels needly for every of species .

  • EPAR wrote on 1 May, 2010, 5:25

    There is here nothing educational if humans look at elephants, lions , brown bears, polar bears etc. living in jail -zoo, because every of these species are part of many different biodiversities in different climate parts and it is unnormal keeping them in one place and their life is atypical in zoo-jails .That is only more one form of business for humans own advantage and form of cruelty to the animals .Also keeping these animals in zoo-jails is not a way for protection them from species extinction in the nature but just a way for trade with them for humans own advantage . We suggest all zoo-jails all over the world be closed and all `prisoners` be back to the nature – by putting them in sactuaries in necessary climate levels needly for every of species .

  • Nancy Fifer wrote on 2 May, 2010, 4:41

    For years, I have been protesting the archaic idea of keeping animals in cages or compounds due to the arrogance of man. If kids need a viewing of animals, it should be in the animal’s own habitat. So much technology to pick from. KEEP WILD ANIMALS IN THE WILD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Jacob Dijkstra, M.D. wrote on 2 May, 2010, 7:49

    In Medicine, many studies have no credibiliy any longer because the authors have to disclose any financial conflict of interest. Most of them do have such conflicts. The study by AZA was obviously funded by AZA and consequently the authors cannot be taken seriously. On top of that, the AZA study was not peer-reviewed. The public is confused, but the majority does not care as long as they can take their kids out for the day, look at some pitiful animals in cages and finish the day with a double cheeseburger.

  • Clare Butler wrote on 4 May, 2010, 15:07

    While I agree that large animals like whales and elephants should not be kept at Zoos and aquariums merely for entertainment, I do not agree that zoos can not fulfill an educational role. I volunteered as a docent at our local zoo. In order to do this we took a 3 month very detailed class on all the animals held at the zoo and were tested on it. We also did programs as docents using small animals like snakes, hissing cockroaches and birds for schools, libraries, nursing homes etc in which we shared this information about the animals. There is also a summer camp where children learn in detail about the animals. Also, all the displays have educational material with them.
    So to say the zoo study is biased is in inself a biased statement. We would have to know what the criteria of both studies were to compare them in order to say which was more accurate. Did they take a survey? How many people and who was part of the study?

  • Lori Marino wrote on 11 May, 2010, 13:43

    You can find the entire congressional hearing on CSPAN here:

    http://www.c-spanvideo.org/program/293204-1

  • T Main wrote on 18 June, 2010, 10:49

    I understand that IDA’s position is anti-captivity, but what does IDA think should be done with the animals currently in captivity? Many animals born in captivity lack the skills needed to survive in the wild (feeding/hunting methods, predator protection, etc.), preventing their release into wild environments. Is the quality of life so limited for captive animals that we should consider euthanasia?

  • Kate wrote on 21 January, 2012, 21:51

    I agree with Clare Butler.  No, animals should not be kept in inadequate conditions.  However, I believe that zoos serve a significant educational purpose.  How many people have seen a lion in the wild?  Most people cannot simply up and fly to Africa to see them.  If you only see them on television, how can you really feel anything toward them?

    “If we can teach people about wildlife, they will be touched. Share my wildlife with me. Because humans want to save things that they love.” – Steve Irwin, The Crocodile Hunter

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