people about animals and their habitats is one of the most important
goals of a zoo. People need to understand these things in order to
better help our animal friends, perhaps even save them from extinction.
There are a number of ways that zoos accomplish
this. Recently we e-mailed Beth Verhanovitz, education director of
the Elmwood Park Zoo with questions about how the zoo informs people
about animals. Here are her responses:
Q.: What does the zoo do to educate people on the animals?
Currently, the zoo educates the public using a variety of
programs including, animal shows for school groups, Zoo-On Wheel
programs for schools, day cares, and nursing homes, parent-child
workshops, summer day camp, family programs, and written articles in our
newsletter the "ZooNooz".
Q.: How much training does it take to get the animals to perform
in public shows?
A.: Training depends on the type of animal. For reptiles, as long
as the animal has been handled since it was young, there is very
little training involved. Mammals also are not generally difficult
if they are around humans from when they were young. Birds can
be very difficult to train and it may take years to properly train a
Q.: How often do you give performances?
A.: On average, we give one performance per day from
November- March. We can give up to 8 shows a day during the
busy spring and summer months.
Q.: Are the animals very cooperative at first?
Reptiles tend to be laid back, and are usually cooperative.
The only exception is adult reptiles who have never, or very
rarely, been handled. Our mammals tend to come to us as babies or very
young, so we have few problems with them.
Our birds were wild, injured, rehabilitated, and deemed
non-releasable. They are
usually not cooperative at first.
Q.: What do you do to get the animals to cooperate if they
donít? Do you give them treats? What kind of treats do you give
A.: Since it is usually only the birds that don't cooperate, we can
bring them treats so they will come close to us and begin to trust
us. A treat for our birds may be a dead chick or mouse.
Sometimes, we can give our mammals a treat after a show. This
might be hay or worms depending on the type of animals. Other
times, we will give our mammals exercise outside as a treat.
Q.: What ideas do you have for future education of people?
Environmental education is extremely important, especially for
children. In order for the
problems we have now to be fixed, people need to understand and
appreciate the reason it is a problem in the first place.
Future plans for education include offering a newsletter that is
just from the education department.
It would have more articles related to animals and education and
a special activities section for children.
I would also like to
see more informal, educational opportunities at the zoo, including more
touch tables, activity stations, and guides to explain and discuss our
animals. The education
department would also like to start offering teacher workshops.