Zoos’ bitter choice: To save some species, letting others die

Make no mistake about it, the world is well into the sixth great extinction and humans and humans’ actions are responsible. I have never thought too highly of zoos. Perhaps that gut feeling is a reminder of the days I spent tossing bales of hay inside “cages” at the zoo at Pocatello, Idaho, during my days as a summer worker for the city’s parks and rec department in the early 1970s. In any case, you can read about how zoos handle endangered species by reading this article.

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2 responses to “Zoos’ bitter choice: To save some species, letting others die

  1. Alan,

    You will be pleased to know, however, that the Pocatello zoo (Ross Park) is vastly improved from years past in their treatment of animals.

  2. As I note in my recent blog at http://thezooporter.blogspot.com/, if it were not for zoos and those “fancier accommodations”, millions of dollars in conservation funding would never be raised in the first place. The fact that zoos can generate the public support, both in attendance and dollars, is an indicator of what a powerful message zoos can generate. The best way to teach respect for and even awe of nature is to allow people to experience it – first hand. For most of us, who will never visit Africa to see giraffes in the wild, that experience occurs in the local zoo. It is one thing to see a giraffe on television, but it is quite another to have a giraffe wrap its long, wet tongue around a branch as you feed it at your local zoo.
    But perhaps we do need to draw some distinctions and stop treating every non-human animal in the same manner. A frog, a zebra, and a chimpanzee are very different creatures with very different needs. Maybe we need to urge northern zoos to stop trying to keep elephants and urge southern zoos to stop trying to keep polar bears. And maybe we need to stop all zoos from keeping great apes and whales. If we are going to keep, breed, and preserve some species, maybe it should be done in special preserves or villages like, for example, the AZA elephant preserve in Florida. Maybe the biggest question of all is how do we keep pride, politics, and bureaucracy out of the decision-making process and do what is right for the animals?

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