The logo of Czech DVR Love Safari Zoo is more like a postage stamp in terms of the design. The stylized rhinoceros was the first exotic beast in the collection of living creatures from all corners of the world.
The creators of the Bronx Zoo logo used a similar technique, but here, the “secret” silhouette is organic and interesting. Yet, they all remind in some ways of the value of biological diversity and the urgent need for every person to visit the zoo as soon as possible.
The charming Jackson Zoo in Mississippi suffers from lack of decision-making about its future. Opened in 1919, this zoo has incredible potential to showcase the best of zoo history with unique Southern storytelling and hospitality, potentially bringing revitalization to a part of Jackson much in need.
The lack of funding is visibly apparent in the myriad of deferred maintenance projects around the large zoo site. The animals appear well-cared for, but visual deterioration of the zoo likely keeps people from visiting.
However, the zoo has a beautiful site complete with a bayou boat ride, and a wonderful collection of animals. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Netflix released its controversial “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness” to a captive, on-edge (and also bored) American audience.
The COVID-19 crisis caused many, but not all, American zoos and aquariums to shut down temporarily as social distancing orders were implemented. Felix Consulting, a strategic master planning and design firm focused on the needs of smaller zoos and aquariums, set out to understand the states of mind of zoo professionals during this unprecedented time.
Relatively new and growing, The Wild Animal Park, in rural central New York still has its brand-new shine. Efficiently well-planned, aesthetically pleasing, and a wide variety of animals and interaction possibilities makes this a great short stop for road-trippers.
However, a few details detract from its potential, including lack of naturalistic vegetation & topography and the compact nature of the site. From the outside, the Alexandria Zoo in Louisiana seems like many of the small zoos we all know and love: a city-owned facility for the enjoyment of the town’s residents and the surrounding rural area, usually located inside a park, sometimes in the rougher part of town.
An unassuming (read: underwhelming) entry sequence with barely visible signage and an undersized parking lot. But once inside (and past the entry / gift shop / administration building), the Zoo reveals herself.
Adirondack Animal Land in upstate New York benefits from a stunning site filled with tall pine forest and natural stream and features a nice safari experience. The zoo has great potential, but in its current state, makes for an experience that may not be acceptable by many.
Yesterday, I discovered this fascinating new study that shows the best way to convince an adult of an argument (specifically, in this study, related to climate change) is to get their kids to make the argument for you. The study, in general, provides yet more evidential support of zoo and aquarium experiences being critically important.
Those sponges could be the perfect delivery mechanisms for conservation change for today’s adults. School strikes in Europe protesting lack of action on climate change.
I wonder if there is an age limit, because the nostalgia of a blond, buck-toothed, bespectacled pre-teen in a pink polka-dotted dress dancing on dad’s size 15 shoes at the daddy-daughter dance is a powerful tonic egging me on to attempt to break through dad’s climate change denial built up from endless hours of FOX News viewing. In the meantime, take a look at the study, summarized in Scientific American here, and let’s work on connecting the informational dots between emotional, inspiring experiences and what everyday people can do to make the world a better place for all living things.
In 2018, I was honored to join forces with an extraordinary group of leaders of small zoos and aquariums to present a Q&A panel at the AZA Annual Conference on the unique challenges and opportunities of being a small institution. Luckily, one of our esteemed panelists, Jessica Hoffman-Balder, General Curator, has generously taken on a few of those unanswered questions providing information related to hybrid institution Greensboro Science Center in North Carolina.
In my experience, I see AZA as an opportunity for small institutions to have just as much of a voice as larger ones. It’s about being active in participation and inserting yourself in dialogue regarding topics, or striving to obtain roles in committees, TAG’s, SAG’s, etc… I actually see a good diversity of small and large institutions' reps as AZA inspectors, commission members, and within the steering committees I am on.
Also, being active on AZA network discussions is a great place to start. We also have had other locations that were more private on site that became natural nursing areas such as a secluded court-yard spaces and a rarely used staff hallway.
However, if any guest inquires about this kind of need, we will gladly open up any classroom space, meeting room, or other unoccupied location to assist them. We will have a staff member “stand guard” to ensure privacy until the guest is finished.
Being a museum and aquarium as well as a zoo, we are lucky in that we are not as impacted by a slow season as others may be. We do have a significant amount of indoor space which helps us greatly during cold or inclement weather.
We try to provide more program opportunities also in the slower months and make connections to holidays and snowy weather via social media to highlight fun event days or great photo ops. We also are investigating a holiday lights program for next winter, which has been very successful for other institutions.
Invitations, coupons and discounts to special events, exhibit openings and new Hemisphere shows. We just wrapped up a very successful capital campaign where we far exceeded our fundraising goals.
Our local community is more likely to be our members and also more likely the guests to participate in our extra activities like camps, special events, and other unique programs. We also try to do joint promotions with other large events that may be in our area and already drawing in an outside crowd.
He had been from other AZA facilities and recognized the importance of striving for and achieving best practices which in turn create better guest experiences and increased attendance and revenue. Additionally, becoming AZA accredited provides a wealth of opportunities to gain resources from other staff and institutions, work with sustainable animal collections, grow in staff professional development, and have more of a collective power in conservation and research.
Do you find staff use a small facility as a stepping stone to gain experience and then leave when trained up? Certainly, some staff members use small facilities as a starter place to grow their experiences.
I also see just as many folks hitting a point where they want to step back from the large facilities and find better purpose and meaning with smaller institutions. We personally have had very little issue with staff retention and I, in fact, was one of those that sought out a smaller facility where I felt like I could be a part of something more in my position.
Finally, we also make a concerted effort to invest heavily in the staff we have. We may not draw the most experienced applicants initially, but we are very supportive of staff development and training.
Some may is afraid of doing this and then losing those folks to better jobs, but we have found that those staff members really appreciate the attention and effort put in to them and instead, it grows their loyalty. Well, certainly social media efforts have been one of the most affordable and effective ways to grow our brand.
We have a variety of campaigns that differ depending on the platform but include Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube the most. This past year, we did hire a consulting group to help us determine where we would be most effective in marketing.
Though this took a significant portion of our budget, it did also help us determine where we should and should not be spending our money and how visitors are best receiving information. We have used this data to start some more targeted media advertising through smart-phone ad beacon technology.
Though this takes staff time, financially, it can be very affordable to make appearances at local events. The Owl at the Table blog posts are ongoing features focusing on interviews with the passionate staff from small institutions.
I was lucky to attend (and present at) The International Zoo Design Conference held in Poland in 2017. Many speakers from around the world talked about their experiences designing habitats or theorizing on the future of zoos and aquariums.
While the majority of attendees were from Europe, folks from South America, Africa, and many countries in Asia presented their unique points of view. Euro & American Zoos are Cousins, branching from the same ancestor as an evolutionary tree.
Can you believe this summer marks ten years of my little corner of the internet talking about design and the future of zoos and aquariums? Although my posting has become more infrequent as my professional life has evolved, you--my supportive and sometimes thoughtfully critical reader--remain constant.
“Visitors: An Overlooked Species at the Zoo (2013) by guest blogger and colleague, Eileen (Entertain) Hill. “The Future of Zoos: Blurring the Boundaries” (2014) a second entry by guest blogger and obviously brilliant colleague, Eileen Hill.
Eileen proposes zoos of the future will buy hybrids of multiple science based institutions. Announcement of the ground-breaking of the eventual AZA Top Honors in Design award-winning Heart of Africa (renamed).
Exploration of what makes small zoos so appealing to visitors, and meaningful to work for as a designer. “In Marius' Honor” (2014) by guest blogger and now Project Manager at the esteemed Monterey Bay Aquarium, Trisha Crowe.
Occurred to me today, should have been title “Small and SAND”, but the sad state of the old zoo is what made this post so popular. Includes design plans and renderings--which I am sure are woefully out of date.
After about 25,000 emails from aspiring zoo designers asking similar questions, I just went ahead and wrote it up to shortcut a step... But this post examines the very slow to catch on trend of after-hours programming or extended zoo hours as a feasible method to increase attendance.
This one discusses another strategy to increase attendance by targeting the most difficult time of year for temperate zoos: winter. A series of 5 posts examining design elements and characteristics that American zoos have been implementing for decades.
This series was an angry reaction to the 'revolutionary' design of metal pods floating through a zoo in Europe. What every zoo and aquarium advocate needs to consider in this continued atmosphere of skepticism, critique, and distrust.
I didn't really know what to expect from a climate change summit held on the campus of a Catholic university. With this blog post at Blooloop.com I explored the idea of creating intentional and robust travel programs with zoos and aquariums that target their widest and core audience: Millennials.
Many zoos and aquariums currently have limited travel programs that may occur infrequently, are largely under-marketed, and are mostly targeted at “big pockets” spenders for nurturing into major donors in the future. I examined why a less expensive and more robust offering could prove to be a lucrative investment in resources for the organization while also aligning perfectly with mission.
We could unite over a common cause: working to protect the remaining non-captive animal populations from extinction. Join the mega audience of zoos and aquariums, (with an attendance greater than all professional sports combined), with the marketing, messaging and PR skills of the animal rights groups, whose ability to incite passionate action is unrivalled.
We need to listen and learn; critically review our policies and procedures, create new programs, and focus. Since the mid-1990s, focus for the Zoo has been on innovation, expansion, storytelling, and improved husbandry & welfare, ultimately creating a clear division between the new exhibits and the older section.
The new section includes an absolutely massive indoor rainforest exhibit (featuring more botanical than fauna--proving once again, the European audience is far more patient than Americans), the previously mentioned elephant complex merging post-modernism with Asian thematic immersion (to a questionable level of success), a children’s zoo, and an under-construction African savanna. The older section of the zoo has been renovated into a passable South American exhibit, with moments of brilliance (see the parrot interpretive), and a visually interesting Mongolian steppe.