The zoo and aquarium industry in the United States is well-regulated, safe, and follows stringent standards regarding the care and treatment of animals. The industry is a meaningful resource in education, conservation, and research efforts. Animals are neither abused nor exploited in modern zoos and aquarium facilities.
Zoos and aquariums provide unique animal encounters, such as animal shows where people can see the reinforcement of training practices. These experiences give people a greater appreciation, respect, and desire to care for animals and their environments. By combining learning with fun, the experience is more impactful when compared to more traditional learning experiences, especially for non-traditional learners and those with special needs.
In addition to the informal education experience of visiting a zoo or aquarium, IAAPA zoo and aquarium members offer formal, structured educational programs. Zoos and aquariums provide curriculum-based education and host field trips, sleepovers, after-school programs, science camps, and other programming. Many facilities also have education resources for teachers such as downloadable, school board-approved curriculum sets on biology, geography, and conservation.
Zoos and aquariums increase public awareness of environmental issues and implement conservation action programs. IAAPA zoo and aquarium members have partnered with a long list of both governmental and non-profit organizations on a wide variety of environmental and conservation projects both in the United States and around the world.
Zoos and aquariums have given research opportunities to scientists and the general public to obtain a better understanding and appreciation of the value animals, like whales, have to our environment and ecosystem. While the financial and academic elite may have the means to observe and research animals in their remote, natural habitats, those opportunities are not available for most. From providing online information to help a young student complete his homework, to hosting doctoral students to study the vocal communication patterns of dolphins, zoos and aquariums provide valuable reference materials in an accessible manner.