Zoos and aquaria worldwide attract more than 700 million visits every year. They are therefore well placed to make more people aware of the importance of biodiversity — a prime target of the United Nations Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011–20.

We surveyed approximately 6,000 visitors to 30 zoos and aquaria in 19 countries (see go.nature.com/vwf8yf). More respondents showed improved understanding of biodiversity after their visit (75.1% compared with 69.8% before) and more could identify an individual action that would bolster biodiversity after their visit (58.8% compared with 50.5% before).

Regrettably, increased awareness does not necessarily change behaviour. The world's zoo and aquarium communities must also help to drive important behavioural and social changes to assist conservation.