1 February 2005
Zoological facilities have historically relied on this word to communicate the worthwhile nature of visiting a zoo. It seemed like enough to be teaching our visitors about conservation. Now we know better. The truth is that zoos do not compete with each other. We aren’t vying for the best education experience at all. Actually, we are competing with theme parks, the beach, shopping centers and movie theatres. The reality is that our visitors are looking to have FUN. I know that some of you will be shocked that I am bold enough to print the “F” word, but I admit it… When you got on holidays or out for the day with your kids, you are hoping to have stacks of it. Fun, fun, fun! I don’t know a single person who saves up their money, waits for time off, drives for ages with a car full of kids and searches for an educational experience! With this thought in mind, Australia Zoo is striving to fulfill everyone’s expectations for an incredibly fun day out.
The easiest and most cost effective way to keep the zoo experience new and different (and encourage repeat visitation) is to provide special events periodically. Here at Australia Zoo we have a special event once a month which adheres to a specific criteria: We theme events to apply to as many visitors as possible (for example, celebrating Thanksgiving in November would be a bit confusing to our domestic market), make sure there are really fun things for kids aged seven and under to enjoy, and include a fundraising component.
Father’s Day is a great example of an easy promotion day. After all, we’re looking for someplace a little bit different to take Dad and giving Dad the gift of spending the whole day with the kids sure beats getting a tie or some nifty socks (depending, of course, on how many kids you have to spend the day with)! Australia Zoo has a wonderful jumping castle to keep the little ones entertained and our local Rotary Club always volunteers to cook up a sausage sizzle for the dads. Just in cause that doesn’t sound too terrible exciting, I should mention that our very qualified Jungle Girls are the ones serving the sausages … sounding better, isn’t it! Our fundraising component is to make a donation to our local Rotary Club. The good folks at Rotary fund projects such as schooling for veterinarians in Africa. These vets will see their fair share of wildlife as well as domestic animals.
Halloween is a fun one. Casper the Friendly Ghost shows up for the kids and the adults receive discounted admission when they donate blood with our visiting Red Cross Blood Mobiles. There’s Jack-O-Landern carving, trick or treating and prizes for clever costumes. And it brings people in!
My personal favourite would have to be Harriet’s birthday in November. ‘Harriet’ is our resident Galapagos Tortoise. After working for years to trace her history, we estimated her birthday as mid November (we picked the 15th) in 1830. She was collected by Charles Darwin in 1835 when she was about the size of a dinner plate. After he took her to England, Captain Wickham brought her to Australia in 1841 as a gift to the Brisbane Botanical Gardens. In 1950, Harry the horticulturist was well and truly sick to death of this giant eating machine walking around devouring all his hard work. So Harriet was gifted to Fleay’s Fauna Centre on Queensland’s Gold Coast. The Irwin family was fortunate enough to have Harriet come to live at Australia Zoo in 1988. She has been a star attraction and deeply loved ever since. Her birthday always attracts interest from press from around the world.
Whatever you decide to do make your facility a bit more fun, I can guarantee one thing: if your visitors are having a good time, they can sit in the shade with a cool drink, they can watch their kids playing happily, and they can encounter our wonderfully unique wildlife, they will get an education. Learning should be fun!!