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Visitors Experiences in Different Zoo Exhibits

Serap Yılmaz*, Tuğba Düzenli and Abdullah Çiğdem

Karadeniz Technical University Department of Landscape Architecture 61080 Trabzon- Türkiye / Turkey

 

Corresponding author Email: serapyilmaz@ktu.edu.tr 


DOI : http://dx.doi.org/10.12944/CWE.12.1.03

Abstract:

Zoos help people to learn through exhibiting the relationships of animals in nature. Therefore, they have the important missions of education and protection of wild life. Most of these missions are achieved through visitors' experiences in exhibit areas. Therefore, it is important to understand visitors' experiences in the zoo and know the reasons that affect these experiences. Animals should exhibit normal behaviors actively to enable visitors to have positive experiences during their visits. For this reason, the design of exhibit areas is significant.

The purpose of this study is to determine the visitors' perceptual descriptions in the zoos including different exhibit areas and their reasons to visit them. Thus, the role of the zoos in enabling visitors to learn nature protection and have environmental consciousness is explored correlating with zoo typologies. 

In this study, three zoos in different typologies in Turkey have been examined and it is conducted in two stages. In the first stage, the typologies of the zoos have been identified. In the second stage, a questionnaire has been conducted to find out the visitors' visiting aims, the extent they reached these aims, their level of appreciation and their perceptions on exhibit areas. The questionnaire has been performed with 450 zoo visitors, and there have been 150 visitors from each zoo.

According to the results of this study, it has been explored that visitors visit the zoos mostly for "education" without considering the design approach. However, it has been found out that the design of exhibit areas affects visitors' level of appreciation and their zoo descriptions. It has been identified that as the level of appreciation increases, the level of reaching aims increases.

Keywords:

Zoos; Exhibition Design; Visitor Perception; Visitor Experiences

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Yılmaz S, Düzenli T, Çiğdem A. Visitors Experiences in Different Zoo Exhibits. Curr World Environ 2017;12(1). . doi : http://dx.doi.org/10.12944/CWE.12.1.03


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Yılmaz S, Düzenli T, Çiğdem A. Visitors Experiences in Different Zoo Exhibits. Curr World Environ 2017;12(1). Available from: http://www.cwejournal.org/?p=16923


Introduction

Zoos are the places that enable human-animal interaction and they are visited by more than 700 million people annually [1,2]. Zoos, as places that help public to learn through reflecting the relationships of animals in nature [3-8], have the important mission of educating and protecting wild life [9]. These missions can largely be achieved with the help of successful visitor experiences. Therefore, it is significant to understand visitor experiences in the zoo and to know the reasons that affect these experiences. During the visit, for visitors to have unique experience, animals should show normal behaviors in an active way [2,10]. The existence of active animals in the space positively affects the individuals’ answers related to giving importance to animals and nature [11-13]. Otherwise, when the visitors see an animal lying instead of behaving naturally, their interest and perception to support zoos decrease significantly [14]. Within this context, it is very important for animals to exhibit their natural life in the exhibit areas, and this situation is related to the design of the exhibit areas. The more the exhibit area reflects the natural lives of animals and the more they provide opportunities for animals to live their natural lives, the more positively it affects the visitor experience because the design of exhibit areas are significant for visitors to learn, for them to behave positively to animals, for the duration they stay in exhibit areas, for their watching times and for examining and observing animal behaviors [12, 15-19]. The design of exhibit areas improves constantly to enrich the behavior and discipline of people in terms of protection and this improvement includes three generations:

 Table 1. Samsun zoo (1st generation exhibit areas)

Table 1: Samsun zoo (1st generation exhibit areas)



Click here to View table

 

In 1st generation exhibits, a variety of animals are exhibited in cages and small areas [20]. This type of exhibits include data plates related to the animals [21].

 Table 2. Ankara zoo (2nd generation exhibit areas)

Table 2: Ankara zoo (2nd generation exhibit areas)

 

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In 2nd generation exhibits, animals are exhibited in wide areas and these exhibits provide panoramic views to the visitors. In these exhibit areas, which have been developed by Carl Hagenbeck, the visibility of boundary elements is minimized; however, inorganic materals are still used in exhibit areas. In this method, it is not focued on the education of visitors, but on the view; visitors are able to see the animals without any obstruction with the help of ditches and railings below eye level [21-25].

 Table 3. Izmir zoo (3rd generation exhibit areas)

Table 3: Izmir zoo (3rd generation exhibit areas) 



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In 3rd generation exhibits, animals are exhibited with their own species in groups. Exhibit areas are designed including the topography and the types of plants in animals’ natural environments  and without including any boundary  elements that distort the visual entegrity between animals and visitors [15,22-24,26,27]. Watching areas are outside the exhibit areas, which decreases the negative effect of crowds on animals and enable animals to exhibit more natural behaviors [23]. Therefore, animals are exhibited in a way that is suitable for their orginal habitats without destroying their social structure. This exhibiting method both involves visitors into natural world  [15,18,22,28], contributes to their learning and focuses on the benefits of animals [15,22,29,30,31,32].

Table 4: T-test scores on the visitors’ level of achieving their zoo visiting aims

 

t

         df

Sig. (2-tailed)

Mean Difference

95% Confidence Interval of the Difference

Lower

Upper

İzmir zoo

53,514

149

,000

4,133

3,98

4,29

Ankara zoo

22,423

149

,000

2,567

2,34

2,79

Samsun zoo

23,785

149

,000

1,800

1,65

1,95

 

The design of exhibit areas is effective on the education of visitors in terms of protection, recogniziton and nature. Therefore, the aim of this study is to explore the effects of different kinds of exhibit methods on perceiving exhibit areas and on the purpose of visitors to visit the zoo. As a result, the role of zoos to raise awareness in nature protection.

Table 5: T-test scores on visitors’ zoo appreciation levels

   

t

df

Sig. (2-tailed)

Mean Difference

95% Confidence Interval of the Difference

 

Lower

Upper

İzmir zoo

53,483

149

,000

4,193

4,04

4,35

Ankara zoo

25,879

149

,000

2,733

2,52

2,94

Samsun zoo

22,102

149

,000

1,960

1,78

2,14

The design of exhibit areas is effective on visitors’ protection, recognition and nature education. Therefore, the purpose of this study is to determine the effects of different exhibiting methods on perceiving exhibit areas and visitors’ zoo visiting aims. Therefore, the role of zoos to enable visitors to have nature protection and environmental consciencious is to be revealed through being related to zoo typologies.

Table 6: Data obtained from One way Anova

 

Sum of Squares

df

Mean Square

F

Sig.

Natural

Between Groups

180,391

2

90,196

128,369

,000

Within Groups

314,073

447

,703

   

Total

494,464

449

     

Interesting

Between Groups

225,453

2

112,727

116,731

,000

Within Groups

431,667

447

,966

   

Total

657,120

449

     

Exciting

Between Groups

89,604

2

44,802

37,732

,000

Within Groups

530,760

447

1,187

   

Total

620,364

449

     

Impressive

Between Groups

88,458

2

44,229

35,779

,000

Within Groups

552,573

447

1,236

   

Total

641,031

449

     

Wide

Between Groups

224,338

2

112,169

133,758

,000

Within Groups

374,853

447

,839

   

Total

599,191

449

     

Bounded

Between Groups

441,938

2

220,969

278,229

,000

Within Groups

355,007

447

,794

   

Total

796,944

449

     

Attractive

Between Groups

192,858

2

96,429

102,607

,000

Within Groups

420,087

447

,940

   


Materıal and Method

Three zoos that include different exhibiting methods and that are located in different regions in Turkey are selected for this study:

  • Samsun zoo (1st generation exhibit areas)
  • Ankara zoo (2nd generation exhibit areas)
  • Izmir zoo (3rd generation exhibit areas)

The study is formed in two stages: In the first stage, the typologies of the zoos are identified.In the second stage, a questionnaire was prepared in order to explore visitors’ zoo visiting aims, to what extend they reached these aims, their level of zoo appreciation and their perceptions on exhibit areas The questionnaire was performed with 450 zoo visitors, there were 150 visitors from each zoo. The participants were selected from those who agreed to participate in the questionnaire.

 Figure 1. Questionnaire questions

Figure 1: Questionnaire questions

 

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Four questions were asked in the questionnaire, and one of these questions was close-ended while the others were Likert attitude scale questions (Figure 1). Frequency analysis was made use of in analyzing the close-ended question. Also, χ2-test was used to determine if the results were statistically significant. In order to analyze the questions related to visitors’ level of appreciation and their visiting aims, t-test from SPSS statistical software package was used and the differences among the zoos were revealed. The questions related to visitors’ level of appreciation and their visiting aims were conducted using a 5-point Likert scale ranging from 1=strongly disagree to 5= strongly agree. The value that each question has according to 5-point Likert scale was determined through arithmetic mean, and the correlations among these questions were evaluated through correlation analysis (Pearson).

 Figure 2. Frequency levels related to visitors’ aims of visiting the zoos

Figure 2: Frequency levels related to visitors’ aims of visiting the zoos 


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 Figure 3. Arithmetic means of visitors’ perceptions on exhibit areas in three zoos Attitude statements scored from 1 (strongly agree) to 5 (strongly disagree) .

Figure 3: Arithmetic means of visitors’ perceptions on exhibit areas in three zoos [Attitude statements scored from 1 (strongly agree) to 5 (strongly disagree) ].



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In the last question, visitors’ perceptions on exhibit areas were evaluated and this evaluation was done through 5-point Likert attitude scale including pairs of adjectives. Through this method, it is possible to evaluate visitors’ visual perceptions on exhibit areas. According to this scale, the answers including different adjectives were expressed through values 1-5.     Data belonging to the adjectives that define exhibits in different zoos were evaluated by the help of “One-way Anova” analysis from SPSS statistical software package. The mean value of analyzed adjectives defining the situations of exhibits in the zoos were calculated. It was examined if the differences in averages were statistically significant, the differences between the exhibition generations’ in zoos were presented.

Results

1st Stage: Typologies of Zoos

In the first stage, the typologies of the zoos are identified (Table 1, 2, 3).

2nd Stage: Results

Results are presented in two sections. In the first section, visitors’ zoo appreciation levels, their visiting aims and the level of reaching these aims are found out.  In the second section, the adjectives that generally describe the exhibit areas in these three zoos are identified and arithmetic means of the scores those adjectives received are calculated. Moreover, in this section, the differences between the perceptions on exhibit areas in these zoos including different types of exhibiting methods are also identified.

Determining the aims of visitors to visit the zoos

The frequencies related to visitors’ aims of visiting the zoos have been evaluated for the three zoos (Figure 2).  The results showed that, visitors stated that they visit Izmir zoo for children to get to know animals, for entertainment and to get to know animals (χ2= 33.733, 3df, p < 0.01); they visit Ankara zoo for entertainment, for children to get to know animals and to get to know animals (χ2= 53.573, 3df, p < 0.01); they visit Samsun zoo for children to get to know animals for entertainment and to get to know animals (χ2= 29.093, 3df, p < 0.01)

Determining the visitors’ achieving their aim of visiting the zoos

Arithmetic means on the visitors’ level of achieving their aim are evaluated. According to these values, visitors achieved their visiting aims in Izmir zoo the most (4.13), in Ankara zoo in moderate levels (2.47), and in Samsun zoo the least (1.8). It is illustrated in Table 4 that the difference between these zoos is statistically significant.

Determining visitors’ zoo appreciation levels

Arithmetic means on visitors’ zoo appreciation levels are evaluated. According to these values, it is seen that the most appreciated zoo is Izmir zoo (4.19), moderately appreciated zoo is Ankara zoo (2.73) and the least appreciated zoo is Samsun zoo (1.96). In Table 5, it is indicated that the difference between the visitors’ appreciation levels in these zoos is statistically significant.

Determining the relationship between the level of visitors’ appreciation of the zoos and their achieving their aim of visiting the zoos

In order to obtain the data related to the level of visitors’ appreciation of the zoos and the level of achieving their aim, the data is analyzed through Pearson Correlation. When the results are analyzed, it is seen that in Izmir zoo, there is a very high, positive and significant correlation between the visitors’ appreciation levels of the zoos and the level of achieving their aim (r=0.961**; p<0.01). It is found out that in Ankara zoo, there is a high, positive and significant correlation between the visitors’ appreciation levels of the zoos and the level of achieving their aim (r=0.868**; p<0.01). It revealed that in Samsun zoo, there is a moderate, positive and significant correlation between the visitors’ appreciation levels of the zoos and the level of achieving their aim (r=0.485**; p<0.01).

Determining the values related to the perceptions of visitors on exhibit areas in the zoos

In this part, it is aimed to reveal how visitors generally perceive exhibit areas in these zoos that include three different exhibits. Therefore, exhibit areas in the zoos have been evaluated by the visitors through 8 pairs of adjectives. At the end of the evaluation, arithmetical averages related to the values of the pairs of adjectives in each zoo have been assessed, and the relationships between the variables related to perceptual descriptions of exhibit areas that include different features in the zoos have been analyzed through One -Way Anova.

As a result of One-Way Anova analysis, it has been found that the values of pairs of adjectives that describe each zoo are different from one another. It has been also revealed that these values show difference in sum total including these three zoos (p < 0.01, N= 150). The data gathered through Anova analysis are illustrated in Table 6.

The perceptions of the visitors on the zoos indicate differences according to the scores of the pairs of the adjectives.

Izmir Zoo including 3rd Generation exhibit areas had the highest scores in terms of perceptual descriptions of the visitors. The adjectives that had the highest scores in describing the zoo are as follows: natural (4.12), wide (4.31), interesting (4.03) while the adjective bounded (1.39) had the lowest score.

Ankara Zoo including 2nd generation exhibit areas had moderate values. The highest scores describing the zoo are as follows: bounded (3.9), wide (3.51), interesting (2.93) and impressive (2.9). The adjective natural (2.31) had the lowest score.

It was found out that Samsun Zoo including 1st generation exhibit areas had lowest values. The highest scores describing the zoo are as follows: bounded (3.87), wide (3.51) and exciting (2.93). The adjectives natural (1.34) and wide (1.35) had the lowest scores. Total scores that the pairs of adjectives received related to these evaluations have been illustrated in Figure 3

Dıscussıon

The purpose of this study is to reveal the evaluations of Turkish people on zoos including different generation exhibit areas, and to determine the effects of these zoos on visitors’ visiting aims, their levels of reaching their aims and their perceptions.

The findings that suggest that the first aim of visitors is “education” and the second is “entertainment” indicate similarity with the findings in literature [8,12,33-37]. However, this study is different from other studies in that it suggests that no matter what the design approach is (1st generation or 3rd generation), visitors’ visiting aims stay the same (education and entertainment). Moreover, it is found out that the difference in exhibiting animals extremely affects the visitors’ level of appreciation and their level of reaching their aims. These findings indicate that in the 1st generation exhibit areas, the visitors’ level of appreciation and their level of reaching their aims are quite low. This design approach is not adequate to meet the needs of animals; therefore, it destroys its own image for visitors. In the zoos, it is seen that as the exhibiting conditions become more natural (2nd and 3rd generation exhibit areas), visitors’ level of appreciation and their level of reaching their aims increase. Especially in the zoo including 3rd generation exhibit areas (Natural exhibit areas), visitors’ level of appreciation and their level of reaching their aims are the highest. This shows that statistically, there is a direct proportional, strong correlation between visitors’ appreciating exhibit areas and their reaching their aims.

 The increase in the level of naturalness in exhibit areas increases the visitors’ appreciation level, thus increasing their education experience. This enables people who have dilemmas about whether zoos are for “education” to be persuaded and visit the zoos more often. As a result, people become more interested in natural life and their attention is raised and it becomes easier for them to obtain information about animals because studies show that the attitudes and the knowledge of the visitors change after the zoo visit [20,38]. The design of exhibit areas are effective for this change to be positive or negative because while natural exhibit areas positively affect the attitudes of individuals towards animals and their learning [8,18,28,32,35,39], unnatural exhibit areas affect them negatively [12,25,31,35].

Findings indicate that different exhibit areas in zoos extremely influence visitors’ descriptions of those areas:

  • Samsun zoo including 1st generation exhibit areas was described as exciting, mysterious, not natural, bounded and narrow.
  • Ankara zoo including 2nd generation exhibit areas was described as interesting, impressive, bounded and not natural.
  • Izmir zoo including 3rd generation exhibit areas was described as interesting, wide, not bounded and natural.

These descriptions indicate that no matter what the design conditions of the zoos are, they are described by the visitors through positive adjectives such as “exciting, mysterious, interesting and impressive”. According to these findings, without getting affected by the conditions animals are exhibited, visitors perceive animals as living creatures that are to be discovered. However, it is revealed in the study that the undesired conditions in exhibit areas such as the boundary elements that are  seen clearly, scarcity of plants, narrowness of exhibit areas, not using the natural effect formed by water and topography cause zoos to be described by visitors through negative adjectives such as “unnatural, bounded and narrow.

Visitors’ describing zoos as “unnatural” destroys the perception that animals are a part of wild life; their describing zoos as “bounded and narrow” gives harm both to the idea that animals in zoos are free and the image that zoos are the living areas of animals. These negative perceptional descriptions caused by 1st and 2nd generation exhibit areas also negatively affects the learning experience in zoos because learning in zoos is related to the designed areas and their reflecting their aims well and this is a kind of learning in that perceptual data have a great role [40].  Therefore, it is important for visitors to obtain exact perceptual data from the environment because perceptual data cause individuals to change their ideas in their experiences [41]. Perceptual data obtained from zoo experience are very important in that they shape the zoo image in individuals’ minds.

The design of exhibit areas is of great importance for the zoo visit that the most of the visitors do for “educational purposes” to reach its aim. When the general perspective formed by these exhibit areas is perceived positively (such as natural, wide and limitless) by the visitors, zoos are provided to be perceived as learning environments as in a zoo including natural exhibit areas because these exhibit areas generally are the environments that aim to create “a beautiful and independent wildlife image living in a landscape that cannot be interfered by the human beings” [20, 42]. This finding may as well be supported by the idea that was asserted by Carr and Cohen (2011) [43]  suggesting that zoos may become the environments that promote learning by providing learning opportunities to the visitors and therefore, the role that they have as effective learning environments should not be disregarded.

As a result, the exhibiting conditions that prevent visitors to reach their aims in zoos and that destroy the image of zoo in the eyes of visitors are to be improved. Therefore, exhibit areas that describe animals’ natural habitats well enable visitors to adopt the idea that natural life and animals are inseparable parts of the earth. One of the best places that may teach this discipline to the individuals is zoos. Zoo experiences positively affect individuals’ awareness towards nature and animals [11-13,39 ].

Conclusion

Zoos are the places that are observed and perceived by people, and they also include educational messages. Zoos are to be the environments where visitors obtain information about animals’ lives and where they discover the interestingness of animal behaviors in natural exhibit areas. When zoos are designed well as places that are education-oriented and where people learn while they are entertaining, they influence visitors positively. However, when animals are not exhibited in a concept which is suitable for their actual environments, neither designers nor educationalists should expect visitors to learn in zoos because these badly-designed “ugly environments” cause people to have fear and indifference towards animals. Therefore, it is possible to attract visitors’ attention to zoos merely through successful exhibit areas. The results of this study also have similar data:

  • No matter what the zoo design approach is, visitors visit the zoos primarily for “education”.
  • Natural exhibit areas enable visitors to reach their aims; however, unnatural exhibit areas cause them not to reach their aims.
  • Natural exhibit areas increase visitors’ level of appreciation and they enable zoos to be described through positive qualities.
  • Unnatural exhibit areas decrease visitors’ level of appreciation and they cause zoos to be described through negative qualities. It is believed that this will negatively affect the ideas of visitors about animals and their qualities in the eyes of them such as being gorgeous, impressive, free and a part of wild nature.
  • As visitors’ level of appreciation increases, their level of reaching their aims increases.

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