Utah’s Hogle Zoo hosts over 1.2 million visitors a year that we hope to exert a positive influence towards biodiversity protection and other environmental issues, such as climate change. We recognize that simply educating guests about environmental concerns does not ensure that they will partake in conservation engagement. We see the Zoo staff and the animals in our care as the vehicles to create empathy and emotional connections with animals and to create greater engagement in conservation action, but we weren’t sure how to engage our staff, from Management to Frontline, in the process of creating opportunities for each guest to feel that they are part of a special experience that makes a difference for wildlife while visiting the Zoo.

Enter the chance for 39 of Utah’s Hogle Zoo and SSA staff members to participate in CREW’s Conservation and Commerce Together training. Through the Management Course, Presenter Courses and Mentor Training, we learned the skills to make personal and engaging connections with our guests and how to incorporate the upselling of our experiences, food and commerce into our engagements to empower visitors to be part of the conservation solutions.

Now that we have participated in the training, we have begun planning how to incorporate these skills into our day-to-day operations. For us, it starts at the front gate helping guests to understand that from the moment they pay for their ticket, they are part of the Zoo’s efforts to conserve wildlife and wild habitats. Staff will be working cross-departmentally to highlight our living collections while providing engaging educational interactions and emotional connections to nature that not only increase understanding of environmental issues but also provide guests with opportunities to take direct conservation action on grounds both through hands-on opportunities and by purchasing experiences or items that promote conservation. Our goal is to help guests have an amazing day at the Zoo while contributing to saving species beyond our gates by the purchases and choices they make and the actions they take.

Over Labor Day weekend we piloted some of these new engagements at the Zoo’s front entrance, at the train station and at our African Savannah exhibit. We will be evaluating the success of these encounters as they are developed. Attached photos are from the pilot engagements.

Chris Schmitz, Hogle Zoo