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Zoo and Aquarium Visitors More Concerned About Climate Change

Media Alert: Thursday, April 12, 2012


April 12, 2012

Jennifer Wilson                                                         
Communications Manager

Note: The climate change report featuring, key findings, implications, and graphs is available at

Powell, OH – People who visit zoos and aquariums are more concerned about climate change than other Americans and are willing to take action to help because they feel a connection with animals. The findings are in the final report, “Global Climate Change as Seen by Zoo and Aquarium Visitors,” analyzed by the Climate Literacy Zoo Education Network (CLiZEN), which includes the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.
Researchers surveyed more than 7,000 zoo and aquarium visitors at 15 accredited zoos and aquariums around the country and found that visitors are more concerned about climate change than the general public. For example, 64 percent of zoo and aquarium visitors say they are concerned or alarmed about global warming, compared to only 39 percent of the general public. Also, 35 percent of the general public report being disengaged, doubtful, or dismissive with regard to global warming versus only 17 percent of zoo and aquarium visitors. Non-visitor attitudes were collected via a survey by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication.
The survey also suggests that visitors’ attitudes, behaviors and concerns vary with their sense of connection to animals and nature, and 86 percent of visitors report feeling a strong sense of connection with the animals they see at a zoo or aquarium.
“We connect people and wildlife and deepen our guests’ appreciation for nature everyday,” said Dale Schmidt, President and CEO of the Columbus Zoo. “The findings of this survey are proof our visitors are concerned about climate change and provides further evidence that exhibits like our award-winning Polar Frontier help visitors adopt greener lifestyles and reduce their environmental footprint.”
Nearly two-thirds of surveyed zoo and aquarium visitors believe that human actions are related to global warming, and the majority of visitors think that global warming will harm them personally, as well as future generations. These findings suggest that zoo and aquarium visitors are a prime audience for climate change education messages.
Other results showed that zoos and aquariums provide visitors with socially supportive contexts for discussions about animals and connections to nature. Compared to the general public, zoo and aquarium visitors are more likely to have friends who share their views on global warming. Visitors who are alarmed or concerned about global warming use zoo and aquarium visits as a chance to talk to companions about their relationships to nature, and they view zoos and aquariums as trustworthy places to find out how to help reduce the effects of global warming.
The survey findings will contribute to a new program being designed to reach more than 20 million zoo visitors annually with innovative ways to help people understand and take action to address climate change. A free e-book entitled Climate Change Education: A Primer for Zoos and Aquariums is available for download for educators, zoo practitioners, and anyone interested in learning more about climate change at The e-book will be also available through Barnes & Noble and the Apple iBooks app beginning May 4.
The survey was fielded at 15 zoos and aquariums, including Aquarium of the Bay, San Francisco; Brookfield Zoo, Ill.; Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, Powell, Ohio; Como Park Zoo & Conservatory, Saint Paul, Minn.; Indianapolis Zoo, Ind.; John G. Shedd Aquarium, Chicago; Monterey Bay Aquarium, Calif.; National Aquarium, Baltimore, Md.; New England Aquarium, Boston; Oregon Zoo, Portland; Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium, Pa.; Roger Williams Park Zoo, Providence, R.I.; Louisville Zoo, Ky.; Toledo Zoo, Ohio; and Woodland Park Zoo, Seattle, Wash. The majority of participating zoos are partners in the implementation of the CLiZEN project. The survey is part of a $1.2 million planning grant received by the Chicago Zoological Society from the National Science Foundation Program on Climate Change Education and another grant provided by the Boeing Company.
The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is home to more than 9,000 animals representing 675 species and provides more than $1 million annually to support over 70 conservation projects worldwide.  A recreational and education destination that includes the 22-acre Zoombezi Bay water park and 18-hole Safari Golf Club, the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium hosts more than two million visitors annually and was named the #1 Zoo in America by USA Travel Guide.  A 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, the Columbus Zoo has earned Charity Navigator’s prestigious 4-star rating. For more information and to purchase advance Zooadmission tickets, visit