American zoos and aquariums are trying to decide how—and whether—to address weighty scientific topics like climate change in their exhibits. A recent New York Times article says some are afraid of alienating their visitors, and they avoid the issue.
But at the Louisville Zoo, the director says there’s a conscious effort to educate its customers.
Zoo Director John Walczak says the zoo doesn’t shy away from issues like climate change in its exhibits. He points to the newest attraction—young polar bear Qannik and the Glacier Run area—as concrete examples of ways a zoo can educate the public about the threats to some species’ natural habitats.
But at the same time, Walczak says it’s important to present the information without seeming preachy or pushy.
“This zoo is everyone’s zoo. And that is why it’s so important that we present our information, that it’s objective scientific information, it’s not biased,” he said. “In that people can take that information and draw their own conclusions as to how they want to live their lives and be part of that planetary balance.”
Walczak says some of the zoo’s exhibits tell visitors they can help, if they choose, slow mankind’s effect on the planet by taking actions like conserving energy.
Newport Aquarium spokeswoman Margaret McGurk said in an email that the aquarium doesn’t have any exhibits addressing climate change at this time, and she didn’t respond to further requests for elaboration.