Remember the “got your nose” trick as a child? I’m not sure about you, but I always fell for it. That’s part of being a kid though, believing what you see and taking everything as it is. Kids are special in that way, and magic is still real. I think the zoo is the best place for kids, even better than theme parks. I said it!

According to the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), U.S. zoos have more than 183 million visitors each year, with 57% being children 11 and under. What I’m hearing is 100 million people who still believe in magic are being exposed to endangered species and conservation efforts. We’ve all heard that it’s up to the next generation to save the planet. When children come home from theme parks, they tell their friends about it. When children come home from zoos, they dream of becoming zookeepers, veterinarians, or biologists.

100 million people who still believe in magic are being exposed to endangered species and conservation efforts.

The AZA is constantly reassessing and improving their animal welfare criteria. This means that the zoos being visited today are 10 times as magical as the ones we visited as children. Zoos are a critical source of environmental education for children to be exposed to, in order to continue developing an appreciation for our planet and its inhabitants. According to the North American Association for Environmental Education, from a very early age, children are curious about the world around them. As they learn and grow, experiencing nature with all of their senses is a critical part of their development (NAAEE 2010). Exploration of the natural world allows young children to create a lasting attachment to the environment (NAAEE 2010). Like playing outside or going on a hike, zoos and aquariums are incredible outlets for children to be exposed to the natural world.

In his book, The Last Child in the Woods, Richard Louv talks about the importance of saving children from what he calls, “Nature Defecit Disorder” (NDD). With each generation of children comes new technology, and new distractions from the Earth around us. It’s important that from a young age, we instill a love for the natural world within our children. Then they will become caretakers of the Earth and its inhabitants.

So what are you waiting for? Let’s go to the zoo!

About Caroline Yaun

Caroline is the Development Associate for the Wild Animal Health Fund. A graduate of the University of North Florida in Public Relations and Marketing, Caroline found her passion in the nonprofit sector. This passion led to her position with the Wild Animal Health Fund in 2021. She believes that animal health research is critical for the preservation of species and sees firsthand the incredible work that veterinarians are doing around the world.

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