The Barranquilla Zoo has created assorted programs to teach the importance of conservation and varying aspects of animal care to their diverse audience which includes children and adults visiting the zoo, local schoolchildren and the zoo’s staff.
Getting kids into science and conservation
At the Barranquilla Zoo children don’t pretend to conduct research; they actually do it! Our “ZooClub” teaches children that science is one important way to conserve wildlife. For four years, these children have been involved in real research projects at the Zoo, such as:
- “Creating an inventory of visiting birds at the zoo”
- “Food for cockroaches”
- “Creating an inventory of Coleopterous (beetles) at zoo exhibits”
- “Garbage in the Baskets: A study of harmful garbage for the zoo environment”
- A study on the influence of exercise and weight in mice.’
- Patterns of visibility and mobility for small mammals at the Barranquilla Zoo’
Some of our research projects have been supported by the Colombian Institute for Development of Science and Technology (COLCIENCIAS). The results of these studies are used as educational resources for visitors and are also shared with other researchers at various academic events.
The Zoo team has created a unique educational opportunity to explain the high level of animal care at a modern zoo. During the program, visitors learn about the enrichment practices for the zoo’s animals. Visitors assemble toys for the animals, enter the empty exhibits to hide special food for the different species, set up enrichment devices and much more. Through this experience, visitors are introduced to the complexity of caring for wild animals, discover the natural behaviors and skills of different species and examine effects of the illegal pet trade. This program is also a great opportunity to visit the Zoo “behind the scenes” and to get the visitors involved in other conservation programs with these species. The result is: Everybody Enriched.
Let’s get to know our Zoo
Can an accountant answer a basic question about snakes to a visitor? In all zoos, many people work in a variety of roles but don’t know the Zoo’s animal collection or basic educational messages. “Let’s get to know our Zoo” involves the administrative staff in educational and conservation sessions to create an understanding of the Zoo’s mission and create a partnership among all levels of the organization. Through this program, administrative staff can participate in a large variety of experiences which include: field work, talks and presentations about the Zoo’s animal collection, animal contact programs, and a lot of dynamic and fun experiences about biodiversity and conservation. “Let’s get to know our Zoo” helps us remember that the most important audience is our own zoo staff and that eventually each member of the zoo is a potential educator.
Altering the Culture
Parrots are a part of the popular culture of tropical countries’ often depicted in cartoons and movies. But the illegal traffic in parrots is a serious problem which threatens biodiversity and the environment. However, keeping parrots as pets is a tradition embedded in our societies. The Barranquilla Zoo seeks to impact the local culture through an aggressive and alternative educational campaign. We are inundating the local schools with a new comic strip that presents the sad history of the illegal traffic in parrots and the serious consequences of this activity for the biodiversity of tropical environments (www.zoobaq.org/loros/amenaza.) This campaign uses the controversial character “El Bola” to depict the serious physical and behavioral problems that can arise for animals who are not cared for properly. The comic strips are distributed during in-depth workshops at schools which include fun games and activities to stimulate a conceptual change in the participants. Every day, the Zoo conducts a 4-hour workshop on this educational campaign to one local school which is conducted by our educational team. The workshops communicate the campaign’s key message: “Parrots do not make good pets.” The campaign includes an evaluation component that compares the ideas of children before and after the workshops.