Ecology, conservation, zoos and breeding projects have been a passion of mine since the late 80s, so it’s always a delight to be involved in an interpretation project which utilises this knowledge along with our interpretive writing skills.
Some zoos, unfortunately, suffer from the same interpretive challenges which afflict many museums and heritage attractions, believing that the exhibit itself is enough to enthral the visitor. You’ll often see interpretation in zoos in the form of ‘information panels’ stating some basic facts about the animal. Sadly, this old-fashioned approach falls far short of providing the experience expected by many visitors today.
Take the Yemen Chameleon, for example.
The fact that it comes from Yemen, eats invertebrate prey and has a long, projectile sticky tongue isn’t particularly enlightening for most people. We all have access to YouTube and wildlife documentaries on TV. Instead, good interpretive writers will use storytelling to explain why the Yemen Chameleon is such a fascinating animal.
Did you know that the Yemen Chameleon acquires most of its liquid in the wild not by drinking, but by absorbing moisture from the humid air as it breathes during the night?
Or that they can often be found hanging out near flowers so that they can eat pollen-laden insects to supplement their diet?
There’s more to zoo interpretation and guidebook writing than simply telling the visitor what they are looking at. As is always the case with good interpretation – it’s all about the story!
Thanks to the Welsh Mountain Zoo for commissioning us to write and edit their guidebook.
Thankfully we didn’t have to translate the copy into Welsh. Despite being half Welsh myself, my knowledge of the language is embarrassingly poor.
Cael diwrnod gwych!
If you’d like to talk to us about interpretation for your zoo, please drop us a line. It’s something we really love doing.