Vol 8, Issue 4, November 2021

A Case Study Exploring the Use of Virtual Reality in the Zoo Context


Lugosi, Z., & Lee, P. C. (2021). A case study exploring the use of virtual reality in the zoo context. Animal Behavior and Cognition, 8(4), 576-588.   https://doi.org/10.26451/abc.


Virtual Reality (VR) is now a popular tool in education and for engagement with the natural world, but to date little research has investigated its potential in a zoo setting. We aimed to gauge the interest of the visiting public in using VR technology at Royal Zoological Society of Scotland’s (RZSS) Edinburgh Zoo. A VR (n = 12) and a video condition (n = 12), both introducing the lives and conservation concerns of African wild dogs (Lycaon pictus), were used to gain greater insight of the thoughts and perceptions of how individuals evaluated a purpose-built VR experience and to enable comparisons of learning outcomes for both technologies. We used semi-structured interviews; responses were evaluated through thematic analysis and descriptive analysis. Younger participants (aged 13-18 years) emphasized that VR allowed them close and personal access to the animals. Adult participants (aged 19 and above) pointed out the entertainment value of the VR experience while highlighting the potential of its educational aspect; that of enabling visitors to see animals in their natural habitat. While our results require further confirmation due to the limited sample size and restricted circumstances of data collection, we suggest that VR could be usefully introduced as a public education and visitor engagement tool that would benefit the visitors’ learning and overall experience at the zoo.  


Zoo education, Immersive technology, Virtual reality, Visitor-animal interactions