Oct 27, 2014 Martin Palicki #54 - Waterparks, Zoos and Aquariums 2014, Zoos & Aquariums Comments Off on “A Tough Year”: Zoos & Aquariums address conservation, experience design and reframing the debate
by Judith Rubin
“We need to do a better job communicating to the public our mission of conservation and saving animals from extinction,” said Jim Maddy, president and CEO of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) at the 90th annual AZA conference in Orlando. He was introducing a new coordinated conservation effort uniting stakeholders with the common goal of saving species from extinction.
Zoos and aquariums today are re-examining both method and message. As wild creatures and wild places become scarcer and the world grapples with the attendant issues, zoos and aquariums are actively stepping up their positioning as leaders in conservation. At the same time, there are new design approaches, technologies and media being incorporated to enhance and intensify the guest experience as well as that of the animals, often intertwining the two in unique ways.
AZA 2014 took place Sept 12-18 in Orlando, in conjunction with the annual meeting of IMATA (International Marine Animal Trainers’ Association). Between AZA and IMATA, the number of delegates was just over 3,000. The event was co-hosted and co-planned by SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment and Walt Disney Parks & Resorts, with leadership from Brad Andrews, Chief Zoological Officer, SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment and AZA chair Jackie Ogden, Ph.D., VP Animals, Science & Environment, Walt Disney Parks & Resorts.
The recession and staycation trends have supported attendance at local zoos in the same way as at regional amusement parks and museums. In his opening address, Maddy pointed out that no AZA members had been forced to close during the recession and that employment is up in the sector. He also stressed the importance of positive experiences in staying close to the hearts and minds of the public: “You are trusted by guests and by the general public.”
“We are the real activists; we are the real animal advocates. Stand proud and stay the course,” said Bill Wolden, outgoing president of IMATA and Director of Training and Development at Dolphin Quest. IMATA, an international organization, represents 1,800 trainers, researchers, educators and vets.
In a brief opening statement, Brad Andrews of SeaWorld, referred to a “tough year,” adding, “rough is good for you.”
Keynote speaker Cristián Samper, president and CEO of the Wildlife Conservation Society, overseeing what is said to be the world’s largest collection of urban parks including the Bronx Zoo and New York Aquarium, shared sobering figures about human population growth, development, extinction and the loss of natural resources. Samper pointed out that the 50% of the world’s 7 billion humans who live in cities are likely to experience nature only through zoos and aquariums, calling on conservationists to work with city planners and the agriculture sector, and to connect field conservation with the work of zoos and aquariums. According to Samper, zoos and aquariums are investing $160 million per year in conservation, “more than any government entity.” Citing 2,978 conservation projects in 127 countries, about half of those in North America, he indicated a need for rebalancing – that the projects emphasize mammals and birds when in fact turtles, primates and amphibians are the more endangered species.
Samper described the 96 Elephants project – a campaign that includes over 100 AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums, working to shut down the ivory markets and call attention to escalated poaching that is devastating the African Elephant population. He called on all AZA members to join the effort and to spread awareness stemming other, unsustainable rates of loss in animal populations.
Numerous conference sessions addressed these issues in more detail, including “The Elephant Poaching Crisis: How Action Can Turn the Tide,” “Join the Fight to Keep Giraffes in Africa,” “Conservation in our Backyards,” “Partnerships to Enhance Conservation Impact,” “Collaborative Zoo and Aquarium Regional Conservation,” and others.
But while the AZA and IMATA communities fervently pursue their mission of conservation – and that mission has never been more urgent – they face considerable public relations obstacles. As Brad Andrews said, it’s been a tough year. In the panel discussion “Public Opinion Shapes Your Story,” Jill Allread, president of Public Communications Inc. exhorted the community to be more pro-active and take action quickly to reframe the debate. She pointed to the influence of the controversial documentary Blackfish and activist websites such as thedodo.com, and Millennials’ reliance on social media for their information. “You must address the issues,” she said, recommending the use of “simple, compelling messages,” “technology that connects,” and “making it personal.” As an example to illustrate her point, she described the turnaround in public sentiment that was helped by a refocusing in the same-sex marriage controversy. Harping on equality was replaced by an emphasis on love, family and children. Zoos and aquariums can and must, Allread said, “enter the discussion and own it. You have a better story.” • • •
Sessions about new and upcoming projects, and conversations on the AZA trade show floor, revealed a wide range of intriguing design approaches. Here are some highlights.
Joe Rohde of Walt Disney Imagineering showed concept art for the Avatar land (4) set to open in 2016 at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, the park for which he was a primary creative force. Noting that “a lot of Disney stories revolve around the relationship of humans to animals,” Rohde shared Director James Cameron’s intention that Avatar be a cautionary tale regarding conservation, a “broad and vivid metaphor to push to the real work and actual planet we have: Earth.” The new Avatar land will not have any live animal exhibits.
Pacific Visions, the new wing of the Aquarium of the Pacific, is devoted to animals that are too big to keep in an aquarium, or too small to see with the human eye. In her design presentation, Ursula Currie of EHDD Architecture described a high-tech, media-rich approach in a similar vein to BBC and Sega’s Orbi in Yokohama, Japan. The primary attraction of Pacific Visions, opening in 2017, will be a 320-seat, 4D, immersive, multi-purpose theater with a 30-foot high screen and 180-degree field of view. The building’s biomorphic shape suggests a whale, and its non-translucent glass façade will be projection-mapped.
Mark Reed, executive director of the Sedgwick County Zoo in Wichita, Kansas, presented Elephants of the Zambezi River Valley (1). Opening in 2016, the $10.6 million, 7 acre exhibition includes an 18,000 square foot elephant barn with six stalls (to house the Zoo’s current pair, Cinda and Stephanie, and add four more). It is being touted as the third-largest elephant exhibit in the US and will have the further novelty of boat rides that put visitors in the same water as the elephants. Design is by Wichita’s GLMV Zoos.
On the exhibit floor, Janine Baker of nWave Pictures talked about 4K having emerged as the new standard of digital video. “You’ve got to have it,” she said. “It’s a must for any producer or distributor, and the consumer demands it.” Whether one is presenting current or vintage material, she said, “Everything needs to look new and ‘wow’ all the time no matter what it is.” nWave’s recent wildlife titles include African Safari 3D, Great Apes 3D, Galapagos 3D: Nature’s Wonderland and Penguins 3D.
Kate Magnusson of SimEx-Iwerks reports that Frozen Planet, the company’s new attraction film in partnership with BBC, is playing at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden and opens in February at the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Center. Rio 4D premiered about a year ago at the San Diego Zoo and will soon open at other locations. SpongeBob SquarePants 4D: The Great Jelly Rescue, is going strong at theaters around the world. And it’s the 10th anniversary of Polar Express, which Magnusson reports has become an established family tradition, at some theaters running from November 1 through early January to meet popular demand.
Penny Peavler of The Weber Group Inc., a design, construction and specialty fabrication company based in Sellersburg, Indiana, was very busy with clients at her AZA booth. She talked about recent work in collaboration with Thinq Design on the International Orangutan Center for the Indianapolis Zoo. Weber Group’s many projects in the zoo sector include the National Aviary in Pittsburgh, the Louisville Zoo (Glacier Run), the Sedgwick County Zoo (1) (above-mentioned elephant exhibit) and the Indianapolis Children’s Museum (National Geographic Treasures of Earth). Weber Group emphasizes what Peavler calls “true design/build” or “integrated project delivery.” The company is also a key member of the creative team directed by George Wade for the new Crayola Experience (slated to open in 2015 in Orlando), with Callison Global.
Melissa Ruminot and Stephen Dodson of The Nassal Company, a fabricator and producer based in Orlando and well-known in the themed entertainment sector, talked about the firm’s substantial zoo portfolio. Among zoos, Nassal is especially in demand for its rock work. Projects include Houston Zoo (African Gorilla exhibits), Columbus Zoo and Aquarium (3) (Heart of Africa), Zoo Miami (upcoming Everglades exhibit) and Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin at SeaWorld Orlando, which recently won an Eagle Award from the Association of Builders and Contractors, citing excellence in rockwork in Central Florida. Ruminot’s remarks attest to Nassal’s attention to detail and authenticity, as well as a sense of responsibility – an understanding that they are not just creating rock work or an aesthetically pleasing exhibit, but a home for specific creatures with specific needs. “The animal is the end user,” she said.
Other projects presented in the exhibit design sessions at AZA:
• The Great Mayan Reef at Audubon Nature Institute
• Sea Lion Cove at Fresno Chaffee Zoo
• San Diego Zoo Safari Park Tiger Trail
• Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens’ new Land of the Tiger
• Greensboro Science Center SciQuarium
• Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin at SeaWorld Orlando
• Meerkat Hamlet at the Brevard Zoo
• Akron Zoo’s Mike & Mary Stark Grizzly Ridge
• Tentacles: The Astounding Lives of Octopuses, Squid and Cuttlefishes (Monterey Bay Aquarium)
• Dwelling in a World of Nest Makers: Connecting Young Children with Small Birds (Palo Alto Junior Museum & Zoo)
• Scovill Zoo Penguin Exhibit
• International Orangutan Center (Indianapolis Zoo)
• New Aquatic Exploration Center (Fundación Teamaikén)
• Big Cat Crossing (Philadelphia Zoo) (2)
• Primorsky Aquarium and Research Center
• Asia and Cool Zoo2 (Audubon Nature Institute)
• Houston Arrival Plaza (Houston Zoo)
• North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoake Island
• Kid’s Trek Play Area (Northwest Trek Wildlife Park)
Comments Off on Cleveland Metroparks Zoo Director Chris Kuhar sworn in as new Chair of AZA Board of Directors
Comments Off on Audubon Nature Institute receives marketing award from AZA
Comments Off on 31 zoos and aquariums receive AZA accreditation
Comments Off on Winners named for AZA’s Party for the Planet video contest
Oct 11, 2019 Comments Off on IAAPA announces 2019 Brass Ring Award Entertainment finalists
Sep 13, 2019 Comments Off on Disney’s Paul Baribault named President and CEO of San Diego Zoo Global
Aug 27, 2019 Comments Off on Tamera (Tami) Lash Brown named Executive Director of St Louis Aquarium at Union Station
Aug 23, 2019 Comments Off on Stantec preparing feasiblity study for Aerial Transit System at LA’s Griffith Park
Sep 11, 2019 Comments Off on Editorial: Creative risks and theme park attendance
Sep 11, 2019 Comments Off on Editorial: Do what you love and love what you do
Sep 10, 2019 Comments Off on #79 – Europe and waterparks
Sep 10, 2019 Comments Off on Transitions: Leaps and bounds
Sep 10, 2019 Comments Off on Try a drop of this: Ten innovative technologies for water attractions
Sep 10, 2019 Comments Off on Luc Petit CREATION: Storyboards & dragons
Sep 10, 2019 Comments Off on InfoComm 2019 Orlando: AV evolution
Sep 10, 2019 Comments Off on WhiteWater brings continuous innovation to parks
Sep 10, 2019 Comments Off on Bellewaerde adds water
Sep 10, 2019 Comments Off on Alterface: Kernels of truth
Sep 09, 2019 Comments Off on Exploring IAAPA Europe
Sep 09, 2019 Comments Off on DNP: The photo souvenir
Sep 09, 2019 Comments Off on WWA heads to Disney
Sep 09, 2019 Comments Off on Christie: From film dome to fulldome
Jul 02, 2019 Comments Off on Expo 2020 Dubai Update
Jun 26, 2019 Comments Off on Meet Lionsgate Entertainment World’s new general manager: Selena Magill
Jun 25, 2019 Comments Off on IAAPA Expo Asia 2019 brings 11,000+ to Shanghai
Jun 24, 2019 Comments Off on Hard hat tour of Rulantica & Krønasår
Sep 11, 2019 Comments Off on Netflix and thrill: Greg Lombardo joins the content streaming powerhouse as Head of ExperiencesLombardo brings with him more than a decade experience in...
Sep 10, 2019 Comments Off on Transitions: Leaps and boundsIndustry professionals are making moves and creating waves
Sep 09, 2019 Comments Off on Exploring IAAPA EuropeMeet recent additions to IAAPA’s European team
Aug 08, 2019 Comments Off on IPM Interview: Jennifer Lee Hackett, Sinking Ship EntertainmentGiant screen veteran Jennifer Lee Hackett has joined...
Jun 28, 2019 Comments Off on John Miceli and the new DE-ŹYN StudiosThroughout his career, John Miceli has worked in feature...
Jun 26, 2019 Comments Off on Meet Lionsgate Entertainment World’s new general manager: Selena MagillMeet the new GM of Lionsgate Entertainment World, scheduled...
May 08, 2019 Comments Off on ECA2: All eyes on LanzhouECA2's latest spectacle, a permanent installation in a...
May 06, 2019 Comments Off on IAAPA Expo Asia"Establishing a presence in both Hong Kong and Shanghai...
Apr 29, 2019 Comments Off on Vekoma: Coasting around AsiaInPark spoke to Jason Pan, Vekoma’s regional director of...
Mar 21, 2019 Comments Off on Lisa Passamonte GreenThe Thea Awards Nominating Committee annually reviews and...
Mar 21, 2019 Comments Off on Infinite Kingdoms: Planet playologyWe recently connected with founder Denise Chapman Weston...
Mar 21, 2019 Comments Off on The French connection: Meet Michel Linet-Frion"Since I typically rely on contracted expertise and talent...
Mar 21, 2019 Comments Off on Andrew O’Rourke: Google THISIn late 2018, Andrew became an employee of Adecco working...
Dec 18, 2018 Comments Off on Mad Systems: The future is nowInPark reported on the launch and revisited with Ensing for...
Dec 18, 2018 Comments Off on Time for a changeInPark checks in with industry leaders who are heading back...
Nov 05, 2018 Comments Off on Michael Mercadante: Giving backMichael Mercadante, President of Main Street Design, Inc....
Nov 05, 2018 Comments Off on JCO: Theming beyond the theme parkJCO, based in St. Louis, MO, specializes in master planning...
Nov 05, 2018 Comments Off on The Hettema Group: Inside the experience designer’s studioFounded by Phil in 2002, The Hettema Group has gone on to...
Sep 14, 2018 Comments Off on AAE Wrapup: IAAPA in Hong KongEstimates indicate the Expo attracted more than 9,000...
Sep 14, 2018 Comments Off on Mack Solutions: Designing RulanticaWith a unique theme and detailed storytelling, the park is...
Sep 14, 2018 Comments Off on Weber Group: Meet the partnersThe new Weber Group is managed by four partners, all of...
Sep 14, 2018 Comments Off on IAAPA, BRPH, accesso: Faces and places"The beautiful thing about the creative and entertainment...
Jun 01, 2018 Comments Off on Expo 2023 Argentina Buenos Aires: Exclusive interview with Mr. Hernan LombardiThe number of visits to Expo 2023 Argentina Buenos Aires is...
May 11, 2018 Comments Off on A Bid for Expo 2027 Minnesota"We have chosen an ideal location conveniently located...
Apr 30, 2018 Comments Off on nWave: Visioning forward"nWave keeps pace with evolving markets and evolving...