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Do zoos and aquariums really educate public?

A scientific critique questions claims by zoos and aquariums that they are educating the public sufficiently, finding that a key study conducted by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums is flawed. "There is no compelling evidence to date that zoos and aquariums promote attitude changes, education, or interest in conservation in their visitors, despite claims to the contrary," states lead author Lori Marino, a neuroscientist at Emory University, Atlanta. Ga., and specialist in dolphin and whale intelligence.

"Do Zoos and Aquariums Promote Attitude Change in Visitors?" is a critical evaluation of a 2007 nonpeer reviewed study widely used by AZA as evidence of zoos and aquariums' educational impact. Marino and her coauthors claim to have found at least six major weaknesses in the AZA study, questioning the accuracy of zoos claims.

"As the public becomes more aware of animal welfare issues, zoos and aquariums are desperately trying to justify holding animals for public display, especially those in extremely inappropriate conditions," insists Catherine Doyle, campaign director for In Defense of Animals. San Rafael, Calif. Animals such as orcas and elephants long have been the focus of intense controversy because zoos and aquariums cannot provide the space, social networks, and natural conditions these animals need Exhibits cause these creatures to suffer debilitating captivity-related conditions and die prematurely.

Marino's study particularly is relevant following the death of an orca trainer at SeaWorld, Orlando. Fla., which is AZA accredited. A Congressional committee has held an oversight hearing on marine mammals in captivity that IDA hopes will lead to stricter regulations. Marino testified at the hearing

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Title Annotation:Animal Abuse
Publication:USA Today (Magazine)
Article Type:Brief article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 1, 2010
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