A Different Perspective

April 4, 2013
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As a child, I went to zoos all the time. For a school field trip, with my family, or to hang out with my friends. Being a kid I never read the information by the habitats or actually listened to the speaker, I was just interested in looking at the animals. Now that I am older, I take notice of the plaques that explain the animals history or personality instead of just looking at the monkey or lion. Personally, I feel, when people think of zoos, they have a very closed mind about the subject. They only see animals in an enclosed space and they assume the worst. What they don’t see or consider is, if those animals weren’t there, where would they be? Getting killed for being too close to the city because their homes are being torn down in order to build a new skyscraper or instead of living in a zoo where they can recreate their population. They are becoming extinct because of poaching, starvation, and predators. Most people don’t realize how beneficial zoos are to endangered animals and how much they help try to keep their species alive.

One of the most obvious ways to help an endangered animal is to breed them so their population can grow. Star Tribune explains in an article done by Janet McConnaughey on January 15, 2013, that generally zoos put two animals together that have a good genetic match, but it doesn't always work that way. Some animals prefer to be in herds or flocks so they are able to pick who they want to breed with. That is the plan for the San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy and the New Orleans’ Audubon Nature Institute. According to the New York Times, 1,000 acres have been put aside for more than two dozen rare or endangered species including lions, flamingos, storks, and several types of antelopes. Robert J. Wiese says 10 acres will be given to the birds and 15-20 acres will be given to each kind of hoof stock. This breeding site will be one of the biggest in the United States. It is not meant for the entertainment of people but for the breeding and research. Not all breeding programs are so large. The California Condor is an example of breeding program that was a success in the United States. In 1987 the California Condor only had a population of 22. The San Diego Wild Animal Park and the Los Angeles Zoo came together to help rebuild the population. By May of 2012 the California Condor had a population of 405, 179 of them are located in captivity but the other 226 have been returned to the wild. That may seem like a really long time but the California Condors have a very slow breeding habit. Because of those two amazing zoos, the California Condors have been taken off the endangered species list. To me breeding is one of the most common ways to help endangered animals and it is one of the most successful ways.
When people tear down an animal's habitat, chances are those animals are going to still be in that area because they have nowhere else to go. Then the people get frustrated because that animal is eating their or getting into their garden. Not thinking of the consequences, they just kill the animal. What do we get then? Another species to add to the endangered species list. That’s where zoos come in to help, they take the animal and try their hardest to recreate their natural habitat. “...we should do our very best to create landscapes and exhibits which look and resemble as closely as possible their...their natural environment. My role is to create environments that allow animals to display natural behavior and for visitors to see animals in areas which really do appear to be very natural.” That quote was from Richard Rowe, a horticulturalist, explains to Dave Morley in a broadcast what the main thing they focus on when creating a habitat. Zoos really try to restore their natural habitat so its easier for the animal to adapt to living there. The Inquirer explains how the Philadelphia Zoo is trying to save frogs from Haiti because they have lost 99% of its native forests. They started out with 154 frogs and now are up to 1400. Not knowing the exact ecology was difficult for them but they experimented with different humidities and temperatures in order to recreate the conditions of the cool mountain forests where they originally lived. Zoos can't do everything. I think we need to realize we aren't the only ones living on this land.
Zoos help get the public involved in the efforts to save endangered animals. Everywhere zoos try to inform the public by presentations, activities, movies, or just being there to answer any questions. When I go to zoos there is always something going on to get people involved. One way someone like me, a regular citizen, could get involved in is to donate money towards the cause to help endangered animals. Zoos use the money for different ways but the money will always benefit the animals.
Zoos do a lot of research and programs on endangered animals but it is worth it. According to the website ABC, the three main types of research they do is breeding biology, veterinary medicine and nutrition. The San Diego Zoo and the Cincinnati Zoo are developing better ways to diagnose pregnancy in wild animals through research in the effort to conserve endangered animals. One of the more larger programs is the SSP which stands for Special Survival Plan. It is a breeding program that helps animals keep healthy, self-supporting populations so that they can be returned to their native wild habitats. Some examples would be the black-footed ferrets and the red wolves. They want to raise awareness and funds to help these animals. The San Diego Zoo just opened the Conservation and Research for Endangered Species Center and the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. has the Cheetah Conservation Fund in Namibia, Africa to try to save the spotted cheetah that farmers there consider a pest. To me it seems like zoos put a lot of thought and effort in saving endangered species.
There are many zoos that put their time and money into helping save these animals. I really hope that anyone who read this essay had a change in thought for zoos. They aren't just a place where animals are held for entertainment. They are a place where animals can continue to live. Marinello, an animal welfare associate said “We are part of the web of life, we forget that sometimes. But we are animals and our earth is supporting us and its all connected. Its a balancing act and we need to think about how we can sustain the planet to take care of us and all the plants and animals on it.“

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Believebeluga This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Apr. 18, 2013 at 3:03 pm
I really love this! Today's day and age is turning against our zoos and aquariums, or so it seems. But they so easily overlook the critical importance they play in conservation and education. Its really great to read about other people who understand the importance of zoos and aquariums!
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