2022 Children's Science News - Silver

In an ambitiously comprehensive look at the state of South Korea’s zoos, Kids Donga Science enlisted children as “Zoo Guards” to help report on regulated and unregulated zoos near their homes. Under the guidance of veterinarians and other professionals, the teams of children found more than 150 facilities that did not need to register as zoos because they housed fewer than 10 species or 50 individual animals. Most of them were animal experience centers such as raccoon cafes and parrot cafes, which have been surging in number and which have raised concerns about possible zoonotic disease outbreaks being passed on to humans. Even the regulated zoos are not without issues, the survey found. The zoo survey included a “welfare score” that assessed the animals’ physical environment and whether they were receiving enough enrichment activities to enliven their days and hone their wild instincts. Too often, the animals did not receive enough enrichment. The welfare score for 353 animal enclosures out of 379 surveyed did not surpass 88, the minimum score deemed necessary to assure a normal life expectancy for the animals within. The judges were impressed with the story presentations and the willingness of Kids Donga Science to take on sensitive topics. “I was totally blown away by how these articles tackled really adult topics, such as the neglect of animals in a zoo environment, in a way that got the information across in an age-appropriate way,” said judge Roxanne Khamsi, a Canada-based freelance science journalist. “The icing on the cake is that it is all packaged in bite-sized pieces and accompanied by art that makes it easy to follow at any age.” Judge Rory Galloway said the stories “made great use of the visual format to explain the process of science while not shying away from difficult ethical issues.” Dasol Lee said she undertook the project “because I believe that visitors have the power to make zoos a better place. Thanks to the AAAS award, Kids Donga Science and our young readers—VIP visitors of zoos—will be able to continue the steps to make the zoo a place where people and animals are both happy.”