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  운영자 2005-02-14 17:40:30 | Hit : 6947 | Vote : 1898
Subject   [소식] Zoo exhibits featuring local animals educate, save budgets
Zoo exhibits featuring local animals educate, save budgets
Friday, June 11, 2004


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University Park, Pa. -- If there is such a thing as a "Ten Commandments of Zoo Landscaping," and Laura Hamilton thinks there is, then many zoos are committing sins of omission by not following cost-effective, but creative routes to educational exhibits that represent local biodiversity.

Hamilton, who earned her master's degree in landscape architecture from Penn State last month, says that in cash-strapped times, zoos that cannot afford complex "immersion" exhibits that put patrons up-close to exotic animals can still draw crowds and perform a valuable public service with animals that are native to the region.

Viewing "everyday" creatures in landscaping that allows visitors to feel they are sharing the same space with the animals helps people learn about the threats wildlife faces from human activity in their own backyards, Hamilton notes. It also saves zoos from the expense of maintaining the non-native plants that make exotic animals look "at home" -- plants that often languish in foreign settings.

Visits to nearly 50 zoos in the United States and Germany helped inform Hamilton's master's thesis focus on the contributions of thoughtful landscape architecture to effective zoo exhibits.

"I once heard a quote that 'the most dangerous creature in the zoo is the architect,' but I never heard anyone say that about landscape architects," she says. "However, I have often seen animals from a particular zoo's area living in miserable conditions in exhibits with no appropriate landscaping. And, because most people don't have the patience to see animals in the wild, I started to realize that people were wrongly associating these animals with the zoo settings that they were seeing them in."

Finding that "nowhere are the principles of immersion exhibits spelled out in a single document," Hamilton first examined the literature of top zoo designers to see what "the rules" for closely replicating animals' native habitats were. She then studied the extent to which five zoos (in Pittsburgh, Cleveland, San Diego, the Bronx and Detroit) put theory into practice.

"Did they stick to the rules? No," she says. "For instance, one rule is that barriers between visitors and animals should be made invisible as much as possible, but this is not happening. Largely, I suspect, it is a matter of cost, so I also studied ways to the lower costs of immersion exhibits, especially for smaller zoos. Limiting the use of decorations on traditional barriers that can't be 'disappeared,' and eliminating fake rocks, themed architecture, and fancy graphics and signage that are supposed to 'wow' visitors but don't add to their knowledge about the animals can substantially reduce costs."

Other principles of good design include using appropriate vegetation and geologic features for each animal; displaying natural sizes of social groups and multiple species to demonstrate conditions in the wild; and controlling views into the exhibits to give glimpses rather than panoramas of the animals' environment -- or creating sight lines that make exhibits appear larger than they are through the use of "borrowed landscapes."

Hamilton put what she learned to use in a demonstration project for wetlands exhibits at the Living Forest Wildlife Center, which is under development in Big Bear Valley, Calif., as a relocation for the existing Moonridge Animal Park, a facility that emphasizes alpine species native to San Bernardino County. Her proposal included a switchback trail leading visitors uphill through exhibit areas for eagles, waterfowl, small birds, otters, toads and raccoons, and ending in a butterfly meadow. The center's current plans do not follow the demonstration project exactly, but do feature areas for some of these animals.

"I'm advocating that if you return to the initial design principles, you're not so involved in creating elaborate elements, like in a flashy theme park, that detract from the animals and the environment," Hamilton says. "Still, I've tested these ideas and found out how hard they are to implement. I hope that by sharing my findings with zoo professionals at large, more zoos will give it a try and we'll all learn from each other."

To view a poster presentation on Hamilton's work, visit http://www.personal.psu.edu/staff/g/w/gwc104/zooposter.pdf
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