TED Conversations

Derek Smith

TEDCRED 50+

This conversation is closed.

Do zoos help biodiversity conservation?

Zoos are becoming more aware of the role they can play in preventing species extinction. The California Condor, the black-footed ferret, and the Przewalski’s horse have all been saved from extinction because of zoos. Zoos also aid conservation by inspiring people to learn more about the diversity of life. However for every species saved in a zoo, hundreds if not more will perish outside of zoos. Is the role of the zoo to showcase and educate the public about the organisms they keep in captivity or should they also focus on conservation outside zoo boundaries?

Share:

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.

  • thumb
    Jun 6 2012: Having done an internship that relates exactly to this really hits home for me. I think that how this question is being looked at is completely wrong. There is more that goes on behind the scenes in a zoo than just showcasing an animal. At the St. Louis zoo, I studied mating behaviors of the Grevy's zebra, the most endangered out of all of the zebras. We did mating behavior research to help us learn exactly when, how, and what is causing mating. All of the research that is being done there is to help rebuild the population in a closed environment such as a zoo in order to help us reintroduce them into the wild. Therefore, zoos are directly working on conservation “outside of the zoo” also. Zoos are used for more than just looking at animals. If you look into any zoo program I guarantee you there is a research aspect to their program designed specifically on conservation of some of the species they have.
    • thumb
      Jun 6 2012: I completely agree with you on this point. Zoos offer numerous advantages beyond giving people the pleasure to view an exotic animal. From the research that goes on to the breeding and sometimes the salvation of injured animals to the education of the public about the plights of these animals, zoos undoubtedly help organisms in the wild. For example, the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California is responsible for some of the most important research and discoveries of marine organisms in the world and they serve a multitude of purposes from Sea Otter rehabilitation to fighting for protection of the California Coast and beyond. Without these "zoos", we would likely know far less about the natural world than we do.
    • thumb
      Jun 7 2012: Theresa, Why do you think that "how this question is being looked at is completely wrong?" Are you responding to a specific answer? If so, click on the Reply botton to the right of the persons name to open a reply box.
      • thumb
        Jun 7 2012: I'm refering the the question posed in the ted conversation above "Is the role of the zoo to showcase and educate the public about the organisms they keep in captivity or should they also focus on conservation outside zoo boundaries?"
    • thumb
      Jun 8 2012: I agree that the importance of zoos as place for research is being underemphasized. There was a conversation on here a little while ago about the use of chimps as research animals, and the consensus was that using research animals is O.K. as long as they were raised up from a captive population instead of in the wild. Zoos tend to be a source of a lot of such animals. They also allow researchers to constantly and closely observe animals through their entire lifespan, to a degree that's not possible with animals in the wild.

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.