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UBC Theses and Dissertations

An alternative paradigm for conservation education: innovations in the public presentation of killer whales at the Vancouver Aquarium Kelsey, Elin P.


Conservation is the number one goal of modern zoos and aquaria. Public education is the primary means through which zoos and aquaria attempt to fulfill their conservation goal. Yet, nearly two decades after its initial adoption, conservation education fails to be effectively translated into practice. This thesis argues that the entertainment paradigm in which zoos and aquaria have traditionally operated is at odds with their contemporary goal of conservation education, thus continued adherence to this entertainment paradigm prevents zoos and aquaria from effectively implementing conservation education. The thesis proposes an alternative paradigm in which conservation education may be successfully achieved. Killer whales present an ideal case example through which to explore the impact of the entertainment paradigm on conservation education. Since they were first displayed in 1964, these animals have been consistently presented in a show format. Today, the Vancouver Aquarium is the only institution in the world to present killer whales outside the context of a show. This thesis uses examples from the Vancouver Aquarium to describe how innovations within an alternative paradigm resulted in the Aquarium's unique approach to killer whale interpretation and animal care, and how these innovations have been successfully implemented into the practice of conservation education in the Vancouver Aquarium's public galleries.

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