We’ve all seen a PETA video on Facebook documenting the cruelty that animals sometimes face at the hands of zoos. It makes sense to be angry about their treatment.
But these videos aren’t representative of all zoos. In the face of climate change and extinction of species we can’t let them overshadow the many humane, well-funded zoos that benefit wildlife.
Properly-run zoos are places where we can learn about the natural world in a way that can’t be done anywhere else. They can inspire kids who later go on to pursue careers in conservation, conducting vital research or simply growing to respect wildlife.
Let’s also not forget the well-documented success stories of zoos bringing species back from the brink of extinction.
For instance, according to the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service, wild California condors were nearly hunted to extinction in the 80s. With their numbers dwindling, conservationists captured the remaining wild condors in 1987 and bred them in zoos, increasing the population from 27 individuals to 435 birds, both captive and in the wild.
Without zoos equipped with proper resources and well-trained staff, the condors may still be at risk, if not completely wiped out. In these situations, boycotting all zoos doesn’t help anyone.
Captive breeding, when done correctly, allows threatened and endangered animals to recover in a controlled, safe environment, free of predators, poachers and disease. There have been many stories like the California condors, and it’s time that inhumane zoos stopped overshadowing these success stories.
Climate change is affecting many species, altering their environments to make them inhospitable. As reported by the Alaska Science Centre and many other scientific studies, polar bears are losing weight, as the shorter periods of solid sea ice prevent them from hunting. Man-made habitats may be one of the only safe havens for species threatened by a man-made climate problem.
There’re documented examples of inhumane zoos, and they deserve widespread attention and condemnation. However, we mustn’t let these zoos tarnish the reputation of others with humane conditions that work to rehabilitate at-risk species.
Do some research on a humane zoo near you. Make a plan to visit. Learn about the amazing rehabilitation programs they are running. Find ways to get involved so that one day, these animals won’t need to be in zoos.
Auston is The Journal’s Photo Editor. He’s a second-year Biology/Geology student.
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