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NATIONAL POLL: VISITING ZOOS AND AQUARIUMS HELPS PEOPLE APPRECIATE ANIMALS MORE; ENCOURAGES CONSERVATION

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (May 24, 2005) – It’s no secret that people love to see animals. But now there’s new confirmation that creatures and the institutions that keep them are appreciated – so much so that a majority of people would assist in animal conservation efforts.

According to opinion poll results released by the American Zoo and Aquarium Association (AZA) today, 95 percent of U.S. adults agree that visiting accredited zoos and seeing animals helps people appreciate them more and encourages people to learn more about them. Another finding shows that 86 percent of respondents agree that visiting zoos and aquariums encourages people to support animal conservation efforts.

“These statistics support what we have consistently heard from our guests: People want to see animals in AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums because it’s how they learn about, and come to love and care for the future of these wonderful animals,” said Charlie Arant, Tennessee Aquarium president. “Aquariums and zoos play a critical role in helping connect people with animals and nature.”

In Chattanooga, both the Tennessee Aquarium and the Chattanooga Zoo at Warner Park are AZA-accredited institutions. AZA’s 211 accredited zoos and aquariums care for 800,000 animals daily and are dedicated to providing the best of care and the most up-to-date veterinary practices available.

The survey also shows that 94 percent of the public agrees that children are more likely to be concerned about animals if they learn about them at zoos, marine life parks and aquariums. “It’s important in our society today that children have the opportunity to learn about and care about animals from around the world,” Butler said.

The poll shows that most adults (95 percent) agree that seeing live animals in zoos and aquariums gives children a greater appreciation for animals. Ninety-three percent of respondents agree that their families enjoy going to zoos and aquariums where they can see living animals up close.

“The Tennessee Aquarium combines both freshwater and saltwater habitats to give visitors an experience unlike any other,” said Charlie Arant, Aquarium president. “We take them on a journey through three living forests under glass to see animals that swim, fly and crawl in natural habitats.”

Although the 618,000-gallon Secret Reef is the largest exhibit in the recently opened Ocean Journey building, it is only one of many opportunities for visitors to have close encounters – even hands-on experiences – with captivating creatures. On Shark Island, an animal encounter exhibit with more than 100 feet of shoreline, visitors may touch a variety of harmless sharks and stingrays. In the River Journey building visitors may touch prehistoric lake sturgeon in Discovery Hall.

“Creating an emotional connection between people and nature is what it’s all about,” said Tim Baker, Aquarium director of education. “From AquaTots in summer camp to retirees attending Elderhostels and every age in between, our educators and gallery guides enrich the Aquarium experience by taking visitors and students above and below the surface to see often-hidden animals. Those discoveries and that connection leads to an appreciation for our environment that can help make a difference in the fate of our planet.”

Butler added that he is not surprised to see education identified as a key part of a family’s zoo and aquarium experience. “It is important for people, particularly children, to learn about animals, like sharks, and then turn their experience into an interest in conserving and protecting animals. Almost any professional working at an AZA-accredited zoo or aquarium will tell you that their passion and dedication to animals goes back to their experiences at zoos and aquariums when they were children. We all share this love of animals,” he said.

Because each Aquarium admission ticket purchased helps support conservation programs, visitors have been giving something back to the natural world every time they visited the Aquarium since it opened in 1992.

In addition to creatures, visitors help preserve land for wildlife. Nearly $200,000 – most of it from the hands of children – has been donated at the Aquarium's coin drop since 1996. This money is donated to the Tennessee River Gorge Trust to preserve wilderness land in the Gorge.

Following are some additional findings from the new research:

• 96 percent of respondents agree that it is important that people work to conserve animals such as those found in aquariums and zoos.

• 95 percent of respondents agree that many of the successes to save endangered or declining species are at least in part a result of work done in zoos and aquariums.

• 93 percent of respondents agree that it is important that an aquarium or zoo be accredited by a national association.

The Tennessee Aquarium inspires wonder and appreciation for the natural world. Admission is $17.95 per adult and $9.50 per child, ages 3-12. Each ticket purchased helps support Aquarium conservation programs. The IMAX® 3D Theater is next door to the Aquarium. Ticket prices are $7.95 per adult and $5.50 per child. Aquarium/IMAX combo tickets are $21.95 for adults and $12.50 for children. Advance tickets may be purchased online at www.tnaqua.org or by phone at 1-800-262-0695. The Aquarium, located on the banks of the Tennessee River in Chattanooga, is a non-profit organization. Open every day except Thanksgiving and Christmas, the Aquarium and IMAX are accessible to people with disabilities. Members enjoy unlimited visits and other benefits. Call 267-FISH to join.

Founded in 1924, the American Zoo and Aquarium Association (AZA) envisions a world where all people respect, value and conserve animals and nature. AZA currently has 211 accredited members in the U.S., Canada, Bermuda and Hong Kong. Look for the AZA logo whenever you visit a zoo or aquarium as your assurance that you are supporting a facility dedicated to providing excellent care for animals, a great experience for you, and a better future for all living things. AZA is a leader in global wildlife conservation, and your link to helping animals in their native habitats.

Harris Interactive® conducted the study online on behalf of the American Zoo and Aquarium Association and the Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums between September 16 and 21, 2004, among a nationally representative sample of 1,102 U.S. adults aged 18 and over. The data were weighted to be representative of the total U.S. adult population on the basis of region, age within gender, education, household income, race/ethnicity and propensity to be online.

In theory, with probability samples of this size, one could say with 95 percent certainty that the results for the overall sample have a sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points. This online sample is not a probability sample.

Harris Interactive Inc. (www.harrisinteractive.com), the 15th largest and fastest-growing market research firm in the world, is a Rochester, N.Y.-based global research company that blends premier strategic consulting with innovative and efficient methods of investigation, analysis and application. Known for the Harris Poll® and for pioneering Internet-based research methods, Harris Interactive conducts proprietary and public research to help its clients achieve clear, material and enduring results. Harris Interactive combines its intellectual capital, databases and technology to advance market leadership through U.S. offices and wholly owned subsidiaries: London-based HI Europe (www.hieurope.com), Paris-based Novatris (www.novatris.com), Tokyo-based Harris Interactive Japan, through newly acquired WirthlinWorldwide, a Reston, Virginia-based research and consultancy firm ranked 25th largest in the world, and through an independent global network of affiliate market research companies. EOE M/F/D/V

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