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Kids’ inventions help zoo swipe top int'l award

24 May 2004

Kids’ inventions help the zoo swipe top international award

A fish catapult, a rope hammock, a food cube and a mirror are just a few of the innovative design ideas school students came up with while working on Auckland Zoo Education Service’s ‘Sniff, Swing & Swipe’ project.

The project has so impressed overseas educators that they have awarded it the prestigious Stockholm Challenge Education Award for 2004.

‘Sniff, Swing and Swipe’ competed with 900 projects from more than 100 different countries to take out the education section of the Stockholm Challenge – an awards programme for projects that find innovative ways to use IT, particularly those which bring benefits to users and society.

The project challenges school students throughout New Zealand to design and make behavioural enrichment items to keep some of Auckland Zoo’s animals mentally and physically challenged.

Auckland Zoo Education Service Educator Sue Barker developed the 12-week project with the educational media company Megabright and the New Zealand Learning Net. Ms Barker said it was a great honour for the zoo's Education Service to be awarded this highly acclaimed international award.

“The project won the DEANZ (Distance Education Association of New Zealand) award in 2003, so receiving the Stockholm Challenge this year is the icing on the cake.”

Students were asked to research the Californian sealion, cotton-topped tamarin or kea, and design a behavioural enrichment item for them. The items were then displayed on the project’s website for comments by the Auckland Zoo keepers. After any modifications were made, students made their final product and selected items were trialed at the zoo.

“Animals in captivity aren’t able to hunt and defend themselves as they would in the wild, which is one of the reasons why it’s so important to encourage natural behaviour in the animals through behavioural enrichment,” said Ms Barker.

“I’m always amazed by how hard the keepers here at Auckland Zoo work, and yet they still have time to develop creative and exciting new enrichment tools for their animals. This project gave students an opportunity to solve real technological problems, and it also connected them with experts in the field - the zoo keepers.”

Due to the success of the ‘Sniff, Swing and Swipe’ project, Auckland Zoo will run another project in term four in conjunction with Wellington Zoo, Hamilton Zoo and the National Aquarium of New Zealand in Napier. This time students will be asked to design enrichment items for the kea, red panda, spider monkey and hawksbill turtle.

“The Stockholm Challenge is the eighth major award Auckland Zoo has won since March – which is an absolutely outstanding effort,” says Auckland Zoo Director Glen Holland.

“It’s fantastic to see staff continually progressing in their desire to use the zoo’s resources to maximise the benefits for conservation and education. With limited resources staff have achieved so much, and I believe the community should feel very proud and excited about such national and international achievements for their zoo.”

Other awards include: The Australasian Regional Association of Zoos & Aquaria (ARAZPA) In situ Conservation Award for the zoo’s contribution to the North Island Brown kiwi recovery through the Bank of New Zealand Kiwi Recovery Programme, Operation Nest Egg The ARAZPA 2004 Research Award for outstanding achievement in scientific research by establishing baseline health data for New Zealand native fauna The WEL Networks Public Sector category of the 2004 EnergyWise Awards for energy efficiency and renewable energy products, including a 34 per cent saving on electricity consumption in the past two years Three Gold Awards and the ‘Best Commercial Project Award’ for the zoo’s Bluebirds Sealion & Penguin Shores exhibit at the Landscape Industries Association of New Zealand (LIANZ) New Zealand Landscape Awards In addition, ‘The Zoo’ programme about Auckland Zoo, produced by Greenstone Pictures, won the Best Information Programme in the recent Qantas Media Awards.


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