Spring is almost over and soon enough we’ll be welcoming S.U.M.M.E.R. There’s a lot of things to do out there, and certainly one of them is taking the kids to the zoo. Zoological parks are not only for the kids though. It’s a place that brings fun and knowledge to all ages and most importantly, zoos are essential for conservation. But what exactly is the role of zoos in conservation?
The IUCN ( International Union for Conservation of Nature ) has a list of threatened species that are currently extinct in the wild. These are species that would have disappeared completely were it not for captive populations around the world, many of which live in zoos. On the other end of the spectrum, there are species whose survival in the wild seem to be uncertain. In this case, zoos often arrange insurance populations. These are captive groups of animals that could, in a worse case scenario, assist in reintroduction to the wild, should the original population go extinct.
Zoos around the world have a bad reputation because only a small number of reintroductions actually happen. In most cases, the zoos are not the ones to blame. Reintroductions can’t occur if the problem that made a certain species go extinct hasn’t been resolved. Some well known and successful reintroductions are as follows:
The Scimitar-Horned Oryx
(Led by the Sahara Conservation Fund)
The California Condor
( Lyon’s equipment has been involved in the California Condor Project, handled by the San Diego Zoo )
The Golden Lion Tamarin
(Led by the Smithsonian National Zoological Park and the Associação Mico-Leão-Dourado, in Rio de Janeiro)
According to AZA (Association of Zoos and Aquariums), over 181 million people visit zoos and aquariums every year. That’s a significant amount of visits and definitely creates a connection between the visitors and the natural world that might not have occurred otherwise. Zoos also play an important role in teaching people about animals in captivity so everybody can help to manage and to conserve them in the wild.
It is difficult to engage people with conservation efforts taking place far away. By allowing people to experience wildlife, the zoos raise money to increase participation in international conservation efforts. After analyzing some important aspects of the zoological parks, like the ones mentioned above, you may come to realize that entertainment is the least important. Now you can make plans to visit your local zoos giving them all the credit they deserve!
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