Zoos and aquariums in Australia and New Zealand are making unique contributions to their countries and around the world in areas varying from wildlife conservation, education, employment and philanthropy.
A socio economic survey commissioned by the Zoo and Aquarium Association (ZAA), the sector’s peak body, measured the impacts of the activities of its 100 members across Australia, New Zealand and PNG.
An estimated 22 million people visited the Association’s accredited zoos and aquariums in the past year, up from 16 million visitors in 2009. There were over five million international visitors and more than 16 million domestic visitors.
Regional zoos and aquariums hosted over a million school students, of which over 940,000 undertook environmental education programs.
While the zoos operated numerous programs to help save threatened native species through research, breeding and release to the wild, they also reached well beyond their borders to support conservation projects in 48 countries around the globe. An estimated 629 conservation programs were supported by the Association’s members, provided funding and expertise to some of the world’s most at-risk species, including the Black Rhinoceros in Africa and Orang-utans in Asia.
Collectively, they spent over $20 million supporting conservation programs in the past year, providing support to local wildlife in Australia and New Zealand, and also exotic animals in countries ranging from Kenya and South Africa to Indonesia and Vietnam. A further $3.1 million of in-kind support was also given.
The majority of staff employed by aquariums and zoos were in diverse roles providing expert care to animals, with more than 2,300 staff employed as zoo keepers, aquarists, veterinarians, nurses, pathologists and behavioural experts.
Zoos and aquariums made significant financial contributions to their local economies, with their spending on salaries, operations, contracted services and maintenance exceeding $675 million in Australia and $79 million in New Zealand over the past year.
Zoos and aquariums were also pivotal in inspiring visitors to learn about wildlife. With the number of people visiting zoos increasing in Australia and New Zealand, their awareness of issues faced by the world’s wildlife is also on the rise. A related earlier study undertaken by the Association into outcomes of people visiting the zoos found that more than 92% of people understood threats faced by animals in the wild as an outcome of their visit and more than 89% planned to make a conscious effort to do things to conserve the environment.
The Association’s Acting Executive Director Amy Hughes said:
“We are pleasantly surprised by the results of the survey. Zoos and aquariums in Australasia are achieving significant outcomes in protecting so many species that are facing hardship or extinction in the wild. For species like Kiwi, Tasmanian Devils and Corrobboree Frogs, the work of the zoos in our region are critical to them having a future in our world. And by linking millions of people to wildlife each year, our members are creating connections to help build the conservationists and environmental stewards of tomorrow.”