Using systems theory to evaluate the effectiveness of a new zoo exhibit
Koenig, Sarah R.
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The purpose of this study was to assess the impact of the new Third Generation exhibit, Gorillas of African Forest, at Houston Zoo. Specifically, this study answered the research questions: (1) What do zoo visitors know about the taxonomy, natural history, behavior, and conservation of gorillas before entering a gorilla exhibit? (2) What do signs in a gorilla exhibit tell visitors about taxonomy, natural history, behavior, and conservation of gorillas? (3) After visiting a gorilla exhibit what do zoo visitors know about taxonomy, natural history, behavior, and conservation of gorillas? (4) What is the relationship between the gaps in the knowledge visitors have of the taxonomy, natural history, behavior, and conservation and the information about these topics found on exhibit signage? A pre and post survey of true/false knowledge statements along with content of analysis of exhibit signage was used to assess the research questions. Visitors come into the exhibit with knowledge of conservation. Signage addresses mostly conservation and behavioral characteristics of gorillas. Visitors leave the exhibit knowing about mostly about conservation and taxonomy of gorillas. Visitors answered post survey statements with an average of 68% accuracy. While this exhibit is viewed as a functional subcomponent of Houston Zoo, areas of future study for further improvement are suggested.