International Handbook on Ecotourism
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International Handbook on Ecotourism

Edited by Roy Ballantyne and Jan Packer

This Handbook brings together contributions from over forty international experts in the field of ecotourism. It provides a critical review and discussion of current issues and concepts – it challenges readers to consider the boundaries of what ecotourism is, and could be. The Handbook provides practical information regarding the business of ecotourism; insights into ecotourist behaviour and visitor experiences; and reflections on the practice of ecotourism in a range of different contexts.
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Chapter 35: Zoos as ecotourism experiences

Alejandro Grajal


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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