Some of the world’s best zoos offer the visitors to see in front of their eyes animal species that might be impossible for them to see in the wild, ever. A zoo or Aquarium visit provides an opportunity to get mesmerized by the beautiful and diverse wildlife at one place.
But there are many NGOs that are anti-zoo and believe in animal rights to live in open space like CAPS & PETA. Unlike in the past when the animals were stuffed into cramped cages, modern zoos provide a vast amount of space and create an artificial natural habitat specific to that particular species. Thus simulating the wild ecosystem. This is not just because the zoo managers felt pity for animals but mainly because it has a higher viewer attraction and provides better pictures.
The evolution of zoos also stemmed from Organizations like Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) in North America and Central Zoo Authority in India. They provide basic guidelines on how animals should be treated, have captive breeding and reintroduction programs to help restore the population of many of the planet’s threatened and endangered species.
Few ways that Zoos help in Conservation
Breeding Programs (also known as Captive Breeding programs) are designed in a way to increase the population of endangered species to avoid extinction. Also, by being in zoos, authorities are able to raise money for survival of these Endangered Species.
The goal of reintroduction programs is to release animals that have been raised or rehabilitated in zoos back into their natural habitats.
There are also international programs conducted outside the animal’s usual habitat where similar genetic matches are found by experts to help the species from going extinct.
Species such as the golden lion tamarin, Arabian oryx, Przewalski’s horse, the European bison, and even the common dormouse have at some point been reliant upon captive breeding so as to not become as dead as the Dodo.
Few Species Saved From Extinction by Zoos
Source: Taronga Conservation Society Australia
Entire Credit goes to the above source for this part
- Arabian Oryx: Hunted to extinction in the wild, the Arabian Oryx was revitalized thanks to conservation efforts of Phoenix Zoo and others. As of 2017, 1,000 animals had been restored to the wild, while thousands more were living in zoo environments.
- Przewalski’s Horse: The only truly wild species left in the world, Przewalski’s Horse is native to the grasslands of Central Asia. After being declared completely extinct in the wild, it’s made an amazing comeback.
- California Condor: Not all that long ago, there were only 27 of these magnificent birds left. Thanks to conservation efforts from the San Diego Wild Animal Park and the Los Angeles Zoo, hundreds of California Condors have been reintroduced into the wild.
- Bongo: The Eastern Bongo, a large antelope, native to a remote region of Kenya, was one of the last large mammal species to be discovered. Though, Poaching and loss of habitat continue to nearly wipe them out. Zoos worldwide are working to establish a stable population to ensure their survival.
- Panamanian Golden Frog: Beautiful but extremely poisonous, the entire species succumbed to the effects of a devastating fungal disease in the wild. Since 2007, existing captive populations abetted by collaborative conservation efforts by a number of zoos have staved off their extinction.
- Golden Lion Tamarin: Close to extinction due to loss of habitat from logging and mining, as well as poaching in its native Brazil, there has been a steady effort since the 1980s to ensure this species doesn’t vanish from the face of the Earth. Currently, about one-third of wild Golden Lion Tamarins come from breeding programs.
Today, 31 animal species classified as “ Extinct in the Wild” are being bred in captivity. Reintroduction efforts are underway for six of these species, including the Hawaiian crow. According to the IUCN, conservation breeding and reintroduction have helped prevent the extinction of six out of 16 critically endangered bird species and nine out of 13 mammal species, including species previously classified as “Extinct in the Wild.”
The Role of Zoos in Endangered Species Conservation (treehugger.com)
Some of the recently published studies do support the fact that establishing zoos have helped animals.
Although there are some cases where these restoration efforts are hugely missing/absent, a particular species of Vulture in Polo Forest (Gujarat) had only around 350 of them left, which are still decreasing. These vultures are trained by locals to perform tasks and entertain visitors. But staying away from their natural habitat is hence, decreasing their numbers in the wild.
There might be even more such species going endangered but I know of this one being visited the place.
Also, In India a lot of zoos are located in cities. Along with dangerous quantities of noise that visitors make, even during night, it is very difficult for these animals to have proper sleep, thus, degrading their health.
India’s participation in International Collaborations has been bleak (or has not been published anywhere) and the number of National Conferences held are also extremely few: capacitybuilding.pdf (cza.nic.in)
Also Lots of Zoo owners across the globe are just profit driven and there still exist zoos with terrible living conditions for the animals. But it is also not denied that zoos have not helped in Animal Conservation.
There should be a dedicated NGO certification, which certifies that the zoo provides required habitat for the animals, proper food and hygiene and also collaboration to preserve the species. After all Endangered animals in zoos are probably more safe than in the wild where they are captured and killed to be sold in black market.
Images from Wikipedia, TravelTriangle and Unsplash.
Originally published on January 12, 2021.