An Interview with Bill Street is Director of Education and Conservation at Busch Gardens Tampa. Chad Emerson caught up with him to talk animal care, conservation and theme parks.
By Chad Emerson
Chad Emerson: How did you personally become interested in conservation issues?
Bill Street (right) : I grew up in the Midwest and was surrounded by wildlife and outdoor spaces. One of my favorite places was a lake in Wisconsin where we spent most of our weekends. Over the years, the lake became more popular, and I saw firsthand the impact of the introduction of non-native species, how new construction impacted the lake and how our behavior can radically change an ecosystem. I decided I wanted to spend my life helping people to make wise decisions about their environment and to learn how their behavior is the most important aspect to conservation.
Emerson: Share with us how your parks combine exciting and interesting attractions with an awareness of conversation issues.
Street: Since Busch Gardens’ creation 50 years ago, part of our mission has been to inspire people to learn about the natural world. Animals and conservation are part of Busch Gardens’ DNA, and we identify ways to increase awareness of conservation in everything we do. New attractions, shows, shops and even dining options include a conservation component. We have a Green Team that identifies ways we can operate more sustainably, such as using biodegradable cutlery instead of plastic .We also have several opportunities for guests to participate in and donate to the SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund, which has contributed more than $5 million to conservation, education and research projects worldwide over the past 5 years.
Emerson: What is the most rewarding conversation experience you’ve had in the context of working within the amusement industry?
Street: There have been several incredible experiences. I was in the delivery room when Bolingo, our young male gorilla (left) was born. I hosted a television show on Discovery Kids that took kids from the UK and US, gave them incredible animal experiences and taught them about conservation. But my favorite experiences are the unique interactions that happen daily at our park with the millions of guests that visit us each year. These are those moments that families remember for a lifetime. It’s an honor to be a part of that.
Emerson: If an amusement facility was thinking about adding an attraction that included live animals, what are some key things that they should plan for in advance?
Street: When designing an attraction with animals, you need to look at it from several different perspectives. First, you need to design an attraction that will meet the needs of the animals and keep them stimulated and allow them to exhibit natural behaviors. You also need to look at it from the guest perspective and give visitors unique ways to view and interact with the animals. A great attraction should evoke an emotional connection between humans and animals.
Emerson: It’s a beautiful summer afternoon. Share with us your perfect theme park day involving animal rides and attractions.
Street: I love the diversity of experiences that Busch Gardens has to offer. I can think of no other place where, within minutes, you can feel the exhilaration and excitement from a rollercoaster and then make a connection with a lemur or giraffe. I particularly like the way that Busch Gardens is designed as a big circle, with a mixture of vast experiences around every corner My perfect afternoon would include playing with my daughters in the Treetop Trails and losing at tug-of-war with a tiger in Jungala, then riding Sheikra, grabbing lunch at the Smokehouse and going to the Critter Castaways show.
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