Environmental Education

Zoos and aquariums reach millions of people all over the world, most of them living in urban areas and having little or no contact with nature. They come to the zoo or aquarium because they have an interest in animals. Consequently, living animals form the basis for education in zoos and aquariums, however important the manner of exhibition and the addition of other collection components such as plants and non-living materials may be.


Formal zoo education comprises education that is conducted in the framework of the educational curriculum of schools, colleges, etc. within or in relationship with the zoo or aquarium. Most zoos and aquariums are regularly visited by numerous classes from kindergarten up to university level. These classes receive structured educational tours and lessons focusing around selected themes as part of their formal teaching programme at the zoo or aquarium. Many zoos and aquariums have developed professional programmes and facilities for this type of zoo education.


The array of educational possibilities using zoo animals as main topics is inexhaustible and certainly does not stop with topics in classical biology. Special emphasis is placed on conservation education. In this context, the World Zoo and Aquarium Conservation Strategy recommends that in addition to approaching conservation issues from the view of biological sciences, zoos and aquariums should also develop educational programmes that elucidate the socio-economic backgrounds of the threats to nature. Through this they should play an active role in increasing the public and political awareness of the connection between consumption and lifestyle and the survival of species and biological systems.


It is of great value that zoos and aquariums worldwide are carrying the same message and demonstrate the importance of nature conservation on a global scale. Zoo educators worldwide are organised in the International Zoo Educators Association (IZE), which arranges meetings on a regular basis and publishes the Journal of the International Zoo Educators Association. IZE is the environmental education arm of WAZA. WAZA and IZE have produced education manuals together on gorillas and biodiversity.

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  • Environmental Education

    Environmental Education

    (1) © Mark Penning, (2) © Goldau Landscape and Animal Park, (3) © Leipzig Zoo, (4) © Mark Penning