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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: It is certainly the role of any high level or developed zoo to be a focal point for the general public in terms of conservation efforts around the world. It is a logical extension of the services zoos provide to make meaningful contributions to biodiversity conservation efforts.

    One does run into the problem of charismatic prioritization when dealing with zoos, however. It is in a zoo's interest, for instance, to take in and focus efforts on interesting, big, and unique animals instead of looking at merely species that are endangered but may not make a great show.

    In this way zoos may fall short of the purely categorical and scientific approach to analyzing and preserving species based exclusively on their need. Yet zoos are an economically organic/business sustainable channel through which conservation efforts should an are brought to the fore- and important function, even if they may not be the best institution there is for preserving biodiverstity.
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      Jun 8 2012: I think that zoos should focus on getting the knowledge on threatened species and should do a part in helping to keep species from going extinct by providing a safe place for species and maybe even providing young to be introduced into their natural habitat. Due to the costs of taking care of the animals and the zoo so that visitors can learn about the threats to the animals, I do not think they should be out in the natural habitats trying to fund maintaining biodiversity. They should work with other organizations that have funding to work out in the natural habitats directly in order to be informed and to also provide information to the organization that could be helpful. I see the zoo as a tool to get the information to the public or acting as a mouthpiece to groups working to preserve biodiversity.

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