When it comes to tools of science communication, it doesn’t get much better than the zoo. A few days ago, a group of friends and I went to the Melbourne Zoo for an afternoon of animal related frivolities. The more I looked around the more I realized that the zoo was taking every opportunity it could to increase public awareness about the environment and the plight of endangered animals such as orangutans and elephants.
The “Wipe for Wildlife” posters were everywhere. This is a campaign to encourage people to use toilet paper made from recycled materials. In addition to the posters there was a quest to find “Who has the most unique poo in the zoo?” This involved toilets with poo on the lid scattered around various animal exhibits with the question “Who’s poo is this?” One would then lift the lid to find out the owner of the poo and where to go next to find clues as to who has the most unique poo in the zoo. I won’t give away the answer here… you’ll have to go to the zoo to find out!
This is a great way of getting children involved in being concerned about the environment. Children LOVE toilet humor. This was abundantly clear by the way they would run up to these toilets, feel the fake poo on top and eagerly look under the lid to find out who it belonged to, all with a giggle and a cheeky grin on their face. The “wipe for Wildlife” campaign appears to be a real success and is implemented really well by the zoo.
In addition to this campaign, the plight of elephants in south east Asia. The “Trail of the Elephants” winds its way round the enclosure that houses the zoo’s five asian elephants. It is themed in the style of a South East Asian village with bamboo, wooden huts and bright posters. It highlights that threats to these animals habitats as a result of human activities, and the attempts by conservationists to rectify the problem without putting the people of the region at a disadvantage. The orangutan and tiger exhibits are similarly themes as their natural habitats are being similarly threatened. It is really effective in bringing the problem to the attention of the Melbournians visiting the zoo by essentially bring the problem directly to them.
The zoo does a great job of communicating these global environmental concerns to the general public. For more information on the Melbourne Zoo, go here.
This post is also found on my other blog, Science Communication.