By Ray Pawley
Special to the Daily Record
Following a decade of employment and consulting in the private sector — including owning a zoo — Ray Pawley managed animal collections (particularly reptiles) at Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo and Brookfield Zoo for more than 30 years. Pawley continues to be actively involved with zoos as a wildlife behavior researcher and as a consultant writer/producer for the media, including being a periodic wildlife mini-series producer for KENW-TV, Eastern New Mexico University, Portales.
The first parts of The “Zoo Beyond” article was published in the Roswell Daily Record Vision section, Oct. 6 and Nov. 3, where we left off with preliminary possibilities and conclusions for the concept and innovations of the “Zoo Beyond.”
6. By using the Zoo Beyond approach, master planning maximizes flexibility while conserving capital investment. Moreover, a Zoo Beyond can accommodate future upgrades piecemeal, and at comparatively low cost.
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7. Criticisms from anti-zoo groups will be offset since most of these recommendations depend on volunteer attendance by unconfined individual animals attracted to the zoo for the public’s benefit, free to leave at any time.
8. By attracting wildlife from the vicinity, incentives can be offered to area residents to elevate their environmental awareness and participation in order to further safeguard the wildlife that would become a stock-in-trade for the Zoo Beyond.
9. As conservation awareness elevates, opportunities for governmental departments of natural resources may recognize opportunities to implement revenue-generating practices that would make up for decreasing sales in hunting and fishing licenses.
10. Staffing costs will likely diminish since there would be fewer work-hours per species than in a standard zoo, but some job description rewrites would be necessary. Going beyond simple animal care, a Zoo Beyond keeper will need to forego animal management practices centered on physical control measures in exchange for broadening their practical understanding of both the animals and the visitors at their shared interface.
11. A wide array of agriculture-based animal exhibits can address new visitor and neighborhood activities. For example, selected domestic breeds can be displayed next to ancestral species to provide an experiential connection to the past as visitors are introduced to the enormous world of agriculture.
12. The range of exhibit alternatives would provide visitors with expanded opportunities to see many invited native animals for the first time and up-close at Zoo Beyond feeding/watering stations strategically placed among existing zoo exhibits.
12a. Children (and adults) under supervision can, for instance, hang up hummingbird feeders; the wonder of the experience being the tiny birds hovering inches away as they sip sugar water even before the container is transferred to a hook.
12b. Today’s electronic technology can allow visitors to actually observe minute details of animals and their behavior, including close-ups of hummingbirds observed on large flat-screen monitors in the more remote locations.
13. Instead of viewing repetitious “canned” images as seen in TV documentaries, the visitor could operate a zoo-provided stationary camera, recording selected events that appeal to the individual in real-time. Put another way, every visitor would have an opportunity to be their own documentary scene director. Alternatively, the visitor may wish to record any event on their mobile phone for distribution to their friends. For example, one can zoom in on a close-up of a jay as it expertly cracks a sunflower seed held between its toes or watch how a dove drinks water, horse-like.
14. For the benefit of the animals, visitors and the Parent Organization, some behavior modifiers can be implemented.
For example, a fan gently blowing across a feeding station would require finches to exaggerate their landing maneuvers, capturing the visitors’ attention.
15. New strategies would emerge in the course of time. Along with the diversity of those opportunities we can foresee, new future concepts will inevitably unfold as technology advances.
These suggestions are tempered by observations both direct and indirect, in zoos both domestic and foreign, taking into account selected studies by John Dewey, John H. Falk, Lynn D. Dierking, Arthur Park, S.M. Allard and M.J. Bashaw.
The array of interfaces abound that bring together the very different worlds of the visitor (our market) and the animals (our product), providing the ultimate in learning experiences for both.
To be continued.
The article “Rethinking our zoos: The ‘Zoo Beyond’ concept” was first published by Zoo Grapevine & International Zoo News, July 2019. The magazine gave the consent to reprint the story in the Vision section of the Daily Record. Zoo Grapevine & International Zoo News is the public media outlet of the Independent Zoo Enthusiasts Society, based in the United Kingdom. For more information, visit izes.co.uk or contact them at P.O. Box 4, Todmorden, Lancashire OL14 6DA, United Kingdom.