Penguin Promises – changing visitor behaviour one promise at a time

A few years ago we had a dream – a dream that our visitors would really commit to changing their environmental behaviour at home, as a result of their visit to uShaka Sea World. And so the Penguin Promises environmental behaviour campaign was "hatched".

It was designed to encourage visitors to uShaka Sea World in Durban, South Africa, to take positive post-visit action to help environmental conservation. The campaign was founded on sound principles for effective environmental education and focusses attention on the plight of the African penguin (Spheniscus demersus).

Judy Mann-Lang with an African penguin, the reason for Penguin Promises

The African penguin was selected as the icon for the campaign because the species is endangered (numbers in the wild have declined by up to 90% over the last 100 years); penguins appeal to most people and finally, because uShaka Sea World, and many other facilities, have colonies of breeding African penguins on exhibit to visitors.

The campaign asks a visitor to make a "Promise to the Penguins". With the tag line, "We don’t want your money honey, we want your love", this campaign encourages visitors to choose to make one change in their daily lives to become more environmentally responsible. Visitors are then asked to hand-write their behaviour change promise on a printed postcard and post it in a specially designed postbox. Their promise is their commitment to the environment. 

Although difficult, measuring the long-term impact of a behaviour change campaign is critical. Few studies have been able to assess "real-life" changes in behaviour after a visit, and even fewer have been able to measure changes a year after the visit.

Our exciting news is that Penguin Promises really does seem to be working. We have contacted visitors a year or more after they had made their promise. The results showed that over 55% of visitors who responded to the post-visit email survey could describe the changes that they had made at home. More importantly, the research is helping us to design more effective campaigns as we learn more about the reasons visitors take action and, equally importantly, what is stopping them from changing their behaviour. 

And this is just the start. We are now inviting other facilities to join us with Penguin Promises. Imagine what a difference we could make if all facilities housing African penguins joined this exciting behaviour change campaign!

To learn more about Penguin Promises, visit

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