Chapter 35: Zoos as ecotourism experiences
A visitor crosses under a waterfall while bird chirps fill the humid tropical air. A few steps away, caimans bask on a sandy beach while a band of monkeys shakes the branches above. The scene has the rich potential for an emotional life-changing moment, which is the core spirit (and hope) of an ecotourism destination. The surprising part is that this scene, with its powerful affective and sensorial load, not only happens at a remote national park or “traditional” ecotourism destination, but also can happen at a local zoo. For an increasingly urbanized world, zoos provide visitors with a unique portal to wildlife and nature (Falk, Reinhard, Vernon, Bronnenkant, Heimlich & Deans, 2007). (In the interest of brevity, “zoos” is used as a code word including both zoos and aquariums. Zoos and aquariums are unique in their own ways, but both also have the unique opportunity to present live animals in designed spaces with powerful narratives.)
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