Zoological gardens, or zoos, keep and display wild animals, mainly for the purposes of
education, conservation and biological research. However, it is evident that a significant
component of zoos is the vast number of people who visit them, since without the support of
visitors, zoos would not be financially viable and would cease to exist. This research
investigates the behaviours of these visitors and develops an understanding of their awareness
relating to what they see and do while they are in the zoo, along with their motivations for
visiting. The study focuses on two major metropolitan zoos in Australia: Adelaide (in South
Australia) and Taronga (in Sydney, New South Wales). A brief historical account
contextualises changes, raising awareness of the significance of visitors to the livelihood of
More and more zoos are integrating into their management routines different
programmes that relate to the care and welfare of the animals. Despite recent growth in
scientific attention, which has focused on human-animal relationships, little research has been
conducted relating to the human visitor in the zoo. To date, decisions made by administrators
have been based upon assumptions of the visitors’ understanding of the work of zoos rather
than on actual quantitative findings.
This empirical research is significant in that it uses both quantitative and qualitative
methods to appraise factual data and information. The data from unobtrusive tracking
observations at different exhibits, combined with the results of questionnaire surveys, are used
to explore and assess the perceptions of visitors. In developing a demographic profile of the
people who visit zoos, this work considers the motivations and the frequency of visitors.
Various factors that influence the viewing patterns of visitors are explored to assess the
popularity of exhibits, and the perceptions of visitors relating to animals and enclosures are
investigated, to assess the diverse levels of satisfaction.
Case studies explore the perceptions and understandings of visitors towards the use of
enrichment items, the use of signs and labels, and a hypothetical approach to the feeding of
carnivores in zoos. The results are important in that they contribute essential knowledge that
describes the perceptions of a wide range of people who visit zoos, along with their
expectations, since it is crucial for these institutions to maintain their popularity with the public.