I just signed up to, once again, volunteer at the National Zoo -- this time in the Bird House. Unlike 20 years ago, when I attended some exhibit-specific training and learned from the keepers, volunteering at the zoo now involves background checks and shots! But I'm finished with the prelims and looking forward to starting my try-out period! Since I've been thinking a lot about zoos lately, I thought I'd re-post about zoos:
An article in Conservation Magazine reported on research that suggests that, while zoos play an important role in conservation and species protection, they might want to try to better coordinate their efforts – more bang for the buck. This report made me think about why it is I still love zoos. Here’s an earlier post on the topic:
I’ve often heard people say, “I hate going to zoos. It’s so cruel to keep the animals in cages.” Recently, there have been news stories regarding the mistreatment of crocodiles by zoogoers in China. Since I love going to the zoo, these statements and news storiestrouble me, and I rethink whether zoos should exist in our modern world. Truth be told, I’d prefer to see zoos that don’t concentrate heavily on the “charismatic megafauna” – lions and tigers and bears, oh my! I’d rather see animals like invertebrates, Amazonian exhibits where we work to see the sloth in a tree, or birds flying freely in large enclosures. But let’s be honest, most folks won’t visit the zoo unless they can see an elephant or a tiger or a panda. Despite this difference of opinion on the ideal fauna for a zoo, I believe that, when the animals are treated in humane conditions, zoos do indeed have an important role to play in today’s society. Here’s why:
Many, although not all, of today’s zoo animals were born and bred in captivity, or cannot be returned to the wild because of injury. When a zoo is well-maintained (see accreditation by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums) and animals live in stimulating, enriching environments, I believe zoos have much to offer. Why not visit and support your local zoo this weekend?
Conde D.A., Colchero F., Gusset M., Pearce-Kelly P., Byers O., Flesness N., Browne R.K. & Jones O.R. 2013. Zoos through the Lens of the IUCN Red List: A Global Metapopulation Approach to Support Conservation Breeding Programs., PLoS ONE, PMID: 24348999
Goldman, J.G. 2014. Is Conservation Work in Zoos too Random? in Conservation Magazine 1/22/14. Accessed 1/23/14 at http://conservationmagazine.org/2014/01/conservation-work-zoos-random/
Louv, R. 2008. Last Child in the Woods. Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill. ISBN-13: 9781565126053. 390 pp.