The importance of zoos and aquariums

posted by Jeff | Monday, August 31, 2020, 7:14 PM | comments: 0

One of the many treasures that have come with Disney+ is Secrets of The Zoo, which was shot over three seasons at the Columbus Zoo (fourth coming soon). It's an amazing zoo, I've been there, and it also has a huge 10,000 acre open environment about an hour to the east where they have a number of pack and herd animals, many of them endangered. One thing I like about the show is that it's not shy about showing the ups and downs for the keeper and veterinarian staff. The births and deaths are all there, as well as the stories of the humans that care for the many critters.

There are still a great many people who protest zoological institutions, usually because they believe that they exist solely for the purpose of making money. Of course, most of them are not for-profit in the first place, but even those that are for-profit, such as SeaWorld or Disney's Animal Kingdom, play a huge role in conservation, scientific observation and public education. The conservation effort in particular is well coordinated across institutions, in the US via the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).

Humans are notoriously skeptical of things they can't see (aside from religion), and this is especially true when it comes to the environment and its inhabitants. Having these animals where people can see them, especially children, raises awareness in a very tangible way. It's the reason people know about elephant and whale poaching, a shrinking panda population, the injury of manatees from boats, etc. Having grown up next to the Cleveland Zoo, and with the former SeaWorld of Ohio, they fundamentally informed my world view about the importance of looking after these species.

I would further opine that because humans are largely responsible for the destruction of the habitats of endangered species, it only makes sense that we take responsibility by looking out for these same species. While the feds keep cutting funding for programs under the Endangered Species Act, the role of private institutions is becoming more critical.

I'm proud to support the zoos in all of the markets where I've lived. They're critically important to the natural world.


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