History of ZooNation
ZooNation, which launched in 2015 is a non-profit zoo, aquarium and marine park advocacy organization founded by Madsen and charter Board Vice President Eric Davis. Both were recruited by SeaWorld and instrumental in working with the company as media consultants to debunk some of the myths surrounding the controversial and highly sensationalized docu-drama Blackfish, which has greatly damaged the image and reputation of the marine park conglomerate and the marine park industry.
Although SeaWorld has been widely credited with elevating the status of killer whales as iconic marine mammals by presenting the killer whale in a more positive light over the past several decades, some of tthe marine park industry’s performance training of cetaceans has drawn criticism from even some professionals within the zoo community, including other accredited zoological facilities of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums. Although, training animals to perform strictly for entertainment is now largely condemned, much of the training conducted in zoos worlwide, which now benefit research activities, animal health and husbandry designed to improve the welfare of animals in captivity was borrowed from techniques and practices developed by SeaWorld and other marine parks. So we must consider their contribution to zoo biology and management and ultimately wildlife conservation.
In recognizing the challenges facing the marine parks, these two media consultants and brand experts, learned that more conventional zoological facilities play an integral role in educating the public and serve the conservation interests of imperiled species, but they do it through more subtle and more conservative informal science-based education programs for their patrons.
Conventional zoos and aquariums are not inclined to encourage show-like performances that some marine parks have long included as part of their visitor experience programs. Show performances at marine parks have historically focused more on entertainment than education. Contemporary accredited zoos focus on education and cultivating a conservation ethic for the millions of people that visit these natural history venues every year and these activities are what ZooNation intends to share though it multi-media conservation education initiatives and campaigns.
In response to a growing concern over the welfare of animals in captive facilities, Madsen and Davis launched ZooNation as an advocacy organization hoping to dispel the myths about zoo animal management and convey the incredible and timely work these conservation centers conduct behind-the- scenes. They wanted to share with the general public how zoos address the needs of conservations-sensitive species represented as animal ambassadors in their respective facilities beyond just the exhibition of animals.