Investigating The Role of Zoos In Primate Conservation: An Analysis Of Visitor Experience At The Toronto Zoo

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Farrell, Caleigh Ashton
Toronto Zoo; Zoo Studies; Visitor Studies; Primate Conservation; Gorilla; Pongo; Anthropology; Discourse Analysis; Social and Cultural Anthropology
article description
This study investigates whether the Toronto Zoo is effective at (informally) educating summer visitors about issues pertaining to primate and environmental conservation. To assess this effectiveness, a mixed-methodological approach was employed combining standard anthropological approaches, including semi-structured interviews and observation, with the multi-disciplinary practices of visitor-studies. Analysis of the data indicates that Zoo-goers fail to connect with educational materials around two primate enclosures, in large part, due to visitor entertainment motivations. A hypothesis is offered that within the Zoo environment are contesting, disjunctive discourses that further undermine its educational goals. The main conclusion drawn is that it will be difficult for the Zoo to increase engagement of zoo-goers, and the Zoo’s impact on them, in matters relating to the primate and environmental conservation. Only by recognizing, and challenging, the presence of combative discourses can both the Zoo and the zoo-going public begin to transition towards greater engagement in conservation issues.