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Derek Smith


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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?


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    Jun 7 2012: Zoos probably have a lot on there plate with maintaining the animals that reside in their boundaries and I doubt they have enough funding and/or man-power to work outside their gates. The role of education and showcasing the animals to the public is important, but if zoos could improve on one aspect they could very well improved educational techniques. Offer classroom tours that go into what it means to conserve biodiversity and how it can be achieved. Really emphasize on the importance of zoos and what is going on in the wild. With that said, I do think it would be awesome if zoos could expand and grow into a university type setting. Where students focus on conservation, research, zoo-keeping, education, and other elements of biodiversity.
    • Jun 7 2012: I agree. I think the zoos primary goal should be to educate the public. When it comes to conserving biodiversity their concern should be with educating people on why it is important to conserve biodiversity.

      When the situation arises and it is convenient for a zoo to help save a species, as was the case with the California Condor, they should of course be a part of it. But thinking about zoos as a means of conserving a species is not an effective way to conserve biodiversity, nor is it an efficient use of zoos.
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      Jun 7 2012: I agree with what you both said. Zoos only have a limited amount of resources and i think it should be spent educating the public and maintaining what they already have. Because this alone, already seems like so much work. Of course, it'd be great if they could focus on conserving species both inside and outside their own boundaries, but this would be a lot of work for one organization. This is possible if zoos were able to get more funding though.
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      Jun 7 2012: I really like your idea about shifting some zoos to a more university-like setting. It could almost be a trade-school for biodiversity conservation. Rather than spending tens of thousands of dollars attending a four year university, a trade-school could be incredibly cheaper and focus almost entirely on conservation aspects. This might draw a lot more people who are interested in this line of work but never had the grades or the money to attend a standard university. This is grand thinking, but I really like it.
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      Jun 8 2012: Zoos (although maybe not all) do have the potential and resources to contribute to conservation outside of their facilities. According to the Association of Zoos and Aquariums: "AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums have funded nearly 4,000 conservation projects in more than 100 countries and spend nearly $90 million on conservation initiatives annually." Zoos (collectively) are one of the largest financial supporters of both ex situ and in situ conservation efforts, as they should be. It is imperative that zoos act as more than "just a zoo," otherwise I see little benefit in keeping animals on display for people's entertainment. Education is a huge part of increasing the interest in conserving biodiversity, but zoos need to play a larger role than just that. Zoos have the potential to contribute to research on small population dynamics and also function as species banks for captive breeding and reintroduction programs. It would be great to see them move towards a bio-reserve type setting that allows for more species interactions (when appropriate) and incorporates ecological diversity.
      • Jun 8 2012: You bring up a great point. Zoos should play a role in conservation and as you proved I think they are putting their best effort out. Zoos are incredibly important liaisons to the public who may not be aware of conservation issues and they can often provide simple things the public can do to reduce their biological impact.
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      Jun 8 2012: I would definitely like to see universities and zoos working closer together. University labs and the man power interested students would provide would greatly help any zoo. It may also help university students lose the stigma that zoos are just for kids and their parents. If going to the zoo was became something everyone considered on a weekend there would be much for funding. In turn the zoos would be able to continue research and conservation efforts along with educating more of the population about things they can do to help the animals the see in the exhibits.

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