Creating Empathy for Animals in Diverse Audiences

Philadelphia Zoo



A young girl gets “up close and personal” with an Amur tiger in First Niagara Big Cat Falls. Photo by Cheri McEachin, courtesy of the Philadelphia Zoo.


A Western lowland gorilla and an Amur tiger cross paths in Zoo360 animal exploration trails. Courtesy of the Philadelphia Zoo.


A young boy looks in amazement at a giant otter in Carnivore Kingdom. Courtesy of the Philadelphia Zoo.


Visitors to Big Cat Crossing look up at an Amur tiger, who is looking down on them. Courtesy of the Philadelphia Zoo.

The Philadelphia Zoo will engage in a discovery process to study and understand the connection between anthropomorphism and empathy for animals, and the Zoo's role in encouraging visitors to become conservation-minded, civically engaged advocates for animals and nature. With its large and diverse collection of rare and endangered animals, and the expertise of its staff to advance its conservation education mission, the Zoo provides extraordinary opportunities for children and families to develop empathy for wildlife and the environment. This multi-part investigation will allow the Zoo to develop a deeper understanding of its annual audience of 1.3 million visitors and their relationships to the Zoo's animal collection, and to lay the groundwork for the development of the most effective engagement tools and narratives. The discovery process will involve ethnographic observations to understand how visitors are behaving around the Zoo's exhibits, followed by a series of visitor interviews and focus groups, and, finally, a test to determine the effectiveness of different audio and visual content.

Additional unrestricted funds are added to each grant for general operating support.