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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 8 2012: For some species zoos can act as a safe haven, keeping them from extinction, and for many individuals zoos just mean a life of captivity. However I think the main value of zoos is that they a) create a human-animal relationship that drives people to protect many charismatic species and b) provide that opportunity for a human-animal connection away from areas that need to be conserved and stay untouched. By diverting public attention away from the hot spots we are trying to protect (like the National Park in the United States) we are keeping those areas from being degraded by human visitors.
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      Jun 8 2012: I agree with you that zoos are a good way to help people connect to animals outside of natural settings. However, I feel like sometimes zoos can also let people see animals in captivity that they then want to see in their natural environment. Zoos should work to conserve species outside of the zoo because although having rare and endangered species breeding and living in captivity is a good way to educate people and keep an organism present in the world, if species disappear from their natural environment having some left in captivity won't really help that species.
      • Jun 8 2012: I agree, I just wanted to voice some support for zoos, but we definitely need to work on preserving biodiversity from both sides of the issue.
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      Jun 8 2012: I had never thought about the charismatic aspect of zoos to help people want to save the animals. But using the zoo as a conservation tool itself, I don't know about that. I'm not sure how able the animals would be to hunt for their food after relying on human feeding. I don't think the reintroduction of the animals would be very successful, we all know how the Keiko incident turned out..
      • Jun 8 2012: I didn't mean to come off as saying that zoos are a good conservation tool for reintroduction. I think they're a good tool for education but they have such a small gene pool and create such bad unnatural behaviors in their animals that they should not be reintroduced from there.

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