Zoo education staff, 1970s
Melbourne Zoo's education program began in 1969, with 2900 visitors in its first year. This program was one of the most innovative in the world at the time. The Zoo's education department has developed over the past 43 years and is now recognised as one of the best in the world.
The development of education at Melbourne Zoo coincided with significant changes to the zoo. Dr Alfred Dunbavin Butcher had been on the Zoo Board since 1947. His appointment to Chairman in 1962 came at a time when the Zoo was experiencing a low point in its history.
By the 1960s the expectations of zoos had changed and the Zoo was struggling to stay afloat. Recognising that the brick and bar enclosures distressed the animals and were no longer what the public wanted to see, Dr Butcher instigated the replacement of these enclosures with ones that resembled the natural habitats of the animals. This was the beginning of Melbourne Zoo becoming a 'zoo without bars'.
During Dr Butcher's time as Chairman, the Lion Park with its elevated walkway was built - a world first. Innovations such as the walk-through Butterfly House and changes to the Great Flight Aviary were also created under the guidance of Dr Butcher. Not to be left out, a tree-top enclosure was built for the monkeys, with zoo visitors able to view the animals at tree-level.
The transformations which occurred during this period were instrumental in shaping the Zoo's future direction as an education and conservation organisation.
150 years Melbourne Zoo, Zoos Victoria, Bounce Books, 2012
Melbourne Zoo: Acclimatisation to Conservation, Mark Kellet, Australian Heritage Magazine, 2009.