Zoos and Endangered Species

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Updated: Mar 28, 2022
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For Centuries zoos across America have offered entertainment and education to children and adults. Facing mounting criticism from animal rights camps, they do much more than recognized. Zoos offer support in conservation, educate the public on positive and negative impacts society has on the wild, and saving future generations from extinction. With so much support for wildlife, animals are thriving and adapting to their environments thanks to the help of over 65 conservation programs.

American zoos and aquariums have set out to educate society on biodiversity issues and the impact conservation programs have to decrease the number of species on the endangered list.

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Though the general public assumed it was all talk, there was no true evidence that supported this claim until Eric Jensen, from the University of Warwick, UK, published the first large-scale impact study evaluating children’s knowledge of biodiversity and conservation issues before and after they visited the London Zoo (2014) 28, 1004-1011). Jensen observed a significant positive change in 41% of the visits supported by the zoo’s education officers and 34% of the visits only guided by teachers. Given that there are over 700 million visits to accredited wildlife attractions every year, even if only one-third of these results improved the understanding of biodiversity and conservation, which is still a significant contribution. To back up Jenson’s study and go into more depth, Andrew Moss from Chester Zoo, UK, and Markus Gusset from the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA), conducted their own separate study similar to that of Jensen’s investigation. Their conclusion, “They are also bolstering the ranks of those who are aware of the steps they can take to conserve and use biodiversity sustainable by improving knowledge of actions to help protect biodiversity.” These studies support the claim that zoos are making a positive impact on educating the public about biodiversity. By educating the public, they hope to see society take action and join the conservation team to support these programs.

Humans have a huge impact on how animals are affected positively and negatively. Though there are dozens of conservation programs worldwide helping endangered species, no change will be done positively if the negative actions people have are not fixed. Joe Gaspard, director of conservation and research at Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquariums claims “If we think it’s tough-going on a day-to-day basis for humans, it’s a tougher world out there for animals. The sad truth is that many just don’t thrive in the world anymore.” He continues his claim about how “Zoos will continue to be a safe haven from poaching and habitat loss caused by human encroachment and climate change.” Furthermore, he explains the negative impacts we have on these species. The only place where animals are safe is in zoo enclosures where they know they are safe from any negative factors. Gaspard continues with “zoo organizations will continue to take the lead in research and conservation to fight species extinction worldwide.” Furthermore, zoos provide more funding for conservation than all the well-known conservation organizations like the World Wildlife Fund and others. By supporting these programs, people support conservation and the hope for future generations of these endangered animals.

With the support of zoos and conservation programs worldwide, there has been a positive impact and increase in biodiversity. People are gaining a better understanding of the steps to take to save future generations of wildlife from extinction. Cornelius Holtfort states that “all such efforts benefit not current but future generations (of people and animals) and aim at a time decade more ahead of us.” Meaning the actions done today will affect those in the future. Holtfort adds about evolution and how it takes time to build up what was once destroyed. “A second chance is not given to animals individuals but to the species and, thus, to evolution as a whole.” (Holtfort, pg. 4) He adds an example about the Przewalski,s horses, “thanks to successful breeding in zoos, once again [they] roam freely over the Mongolian steppes.” But sometimes what is gone cannot be brought back. Extinction is a result of natural evolution. Meaning some species, due to change in climate or habitat become destroyed by natural weathering, die off due to the species being unable to adapt in its environment anymore. Oregon Spotted Frogs began to decrease in population due to temperatures dropping. These very cool temperatures through much of June and July result in delays of these tadpoles to mature. Furthermore, it became harder for this species to metamorphosis in their environment. Vancouver Zoo stepped in and brought in tadpoles before the cold season arrived and supported their growth process. When temperatures began warming up, the frogs who meet the size requirement were released back into the wild. “This s a very exciting time of the year as we get to see the end of season results of our work over the busy spring and summer period.” Says Menita Prasada, zoo animal care manager. “It was a successful first year,” she adds.

Zoos are more than just a place to take a school field trip to or a place of entertainment. . Zoos offer support in conservation, educate the public on positive and negative impacts society has on the wild, and saving future generations from extinction. In addition, American zoos are nonprofit and only do what’s best for the animals within the enclosures and the species still out in the wild. They have educated millions of people to support conservation and brought back species from the brink of extinction all while still being doubted of their works. They are here to serve and protect those who cannot speak for themselves. 

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Zoos and Endangered Species. (2021, Jun 01). Retrieved from https://papersowl.com/examples/zoos-and-endangered-species/