Zoos and aquariums can be fun and interesting places to visit and see animals you usually wouldn’t see on a day to day basis. This includes rare and endangered animals such as giant pandas and rhinos and it’s great to see some of these beautiful animals though, zoos and aquariums might not be helping animals in the way we would think and could be negatively affecting the animals they have in captivity. Though there are zoos that provide necessary care and do their best to keep the animals happy there is a problem in that it could be hard to take care some types of animals, as some need extra attention and care to stay content and healthy. Some of these places try to make it work though, and help out with conservation and research efforts of specific animals and actually make an impact to save certain species.
Zoos and aquariums could be very useful in helping bring threatened and endangered animal species back and provide research for certain animals, though they could be considered inhumane through many different issues, controversies, and debates zoos and aquariums face. There are many pros and cons to zoos and aquariums and whether animals should be kept in places like these Animal conservation is well known and has been a steadily increasing cause and there aremany foundations and works groups that revolve around the conservation of animal species such as The World Wildlife Fund and The Wildlife Conservation Society. Many zoos and aquariums have a focus on animal conservation and the saving of threatened and endangered animal species.
This is shown in the article called “8 Reasons that Zoos are Critically Important for Conservation” written by James Borrell stating “There are 39 animal species currently listed by the IUCN as Extinct in the Wild. These are species that would have vanished totally were it not for captive animal populations around the world, many of which reside in zoos”. This shows the impact zoos and aquariums can have on animal species and also shows that zoos and aquariums do play a crucial role in the conservation with an example being the Barbary Lion which went extinct in the wild around 1960 (endangeredlist.org). Though there are very few of these lions left all of them are kept in either zoos or reserves which shows how a zoo can help conservation efforts and can save a species from going completely extinct, such as the Barbary Lion. Barbary Lions, also know as the Atlas lion, was from Northern Africa and males were distinguished by their long, dark manes. The last recorded Barbary lion in the wild was shot in Morocco by a French colonial hunter around early to mid-1900’s, probably around the 1940’s (belfastzoo.
co.uk). According to Belfast Zoo, there are less than 90 of these lions and they all reside in zoos worldwide and “are part of a global and collaborative breeding programme to ensure their future survival”. With zoos around the world collaborating together to save these beautiful species of lions, the Barbary lion might have a chance to survive and could potentially start to live in the wild again like they did before they were hunted to extinction in the wild.
James Borrell also supports this idea with writer James Borrell stating “For species whose survival in the wild looks in doubt, zoos often set up ‘insurance’ populations” adding that if populations do fall, then animals like this can assist with reintroductions into the wild. Reintroductions are also a very big part of conservation though some find it as a bad idea as the animals would have been introduced to human contact before being released into the wild, since that could cause the animal to assume humans aren’t a threat, and very costly. However, reintroducing animals into the wild has also helped save some endangered species such as the black-footed ferrets and the California condor, which mixed zoo and sanctuary breeding programs save both of these species in the wild. Even the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) works with many different programs to ensure a species survival with an example in the black-footed ferret, with the World Wildlife Fund stating “WWF leads recovery efforts by working alongside tribal communities and their wildlife programs, public land, and wildlife agencies, other conservation organizations, universities, zoos and private landowners to remove the black-footed ferret from the list of Threatened and Endangered Species”. With one of the foundation’s points about helping the species stating that the World Wildlife Fund and all its partners, which includes zoos, are working on “maintaining and enhancing existing ferret populations”. “Enhancing ferret populations” could mean any number of things, such as reintroducing black-footed ferrets into the wild, breeding them and then releasing them, or even helping the prey animals of the black-footed ferrets, the prairie dogs, regain populations, and all of these can be done in zoos and wildlife sanctuaries. Aquariums are kind of like zoos in where most help with the conservation of wildlife and a lot of them have rehabilitated and release programs, wherein if they find an injured or incapable sea animals such as a beached dolphin or sea turtle entangled in a net they help the animal recover and then release them if they are capable too to be released, and if they aren’t they usually stay with the aquarium or wildlife center.
One example of a place like this is The Clearwater Marine Aquarium in Clearwater, Florida which also serves as a marine wildlife hospital. They are well known to rehabilitate animals and release them after they are helped. On their website they state that their mission is “We believe in preserving our environment while inspiring the human spirit through leadership in the rescue, rehabilitation, and release of marine life” (www.seewinter.com).
The Clearwater Marine Aquarium’s mission provides what they want to achieve and shows that they want to help with animal conservation, specifically marine animal conservation. The aquarium even provides footage of the rescues, releases, and sometimes even surgeries and the results of the rehabilitation which can be seen on their social media and website. However, if they can’t release an animal for medical reasons the animals stays at the aquarium and becomes a resident animal or they go to an animal sanctuary, the best example of this is the aquarium’s mascot, Winter the Dolphin who is a resident animal since she lost her tail flukes due to a crab trap that cut of the circulation to her tail which caused it to deteriorate and in turn, couldn’t be saved. Now she uses a prosthetic tail fluke and a different swim pattern, if she is not using her prosthetic, to swim around her tank. Winter isn’t the only resident animal however, their is Hope the bottlenose dolphin, which is one of Winter’s tankmates, Ricky the great white pelican, Cooper and Walle the river otters, Thelma and Louise the nurse sharks, Harold the green sea turtle, and many other marine animals of different species. Zoos and aquariums are good places to conduct research on animals and the information we learn about them can help conserve the species in the wild. Dr. James Borrell calls zoos and aquariums “a living museum” and emphasizing what we learn about animals in captivity, such as biology, animal behavior, dietary systems and requirements, anatomy, physiology, and reproduction rates would help the species in the wild.
Many zoos also give conservations efforts by donating money to organizations such as The World Wildlife Fund as stated in Borrell’s article. With the donations, foundations have the money to research and find ways to help endangered and threatened species. Despite the fact that most zoos do their best to keep their animals content and healthy theycan’t always satisfy every animal and some of the rarer animals need special care and attention due to how they would live the wild. The Humane Society of America states “Zoos should educate about how animals live in the wild, and help preserve them there” which is a notable statement about what zoos should aim for as a goal. According to “Zoo Conservation Biology”, a book written by John E, it states “Replicating an animal’s complete natural environment in captivity is virtually impossible as the variables to take into account of, are infinite, although many believe this is not actually important to the animal’s well-being”. This is a sense is very true as in John. E’s book he explains that a proper environment is essential for an animal’s health and well being. Since perfectly replicating the environment of an animal is virtually unfeasible, keeping animals that are meant to be in the wild happy is an extremely difficult task.
It has also been shown animals behave differently in when in captivity. In the article “Orca Behavior and Subsequent Aggression Associated with Oceanarium Confinement”, by Robert Anderson, it explains the research Robert Anderson and his colleagues conducted on killer whales, which are also known as orcas, in captivity and how captivity affects their personality and physiological state. In the article Robert Anderson, stated: ” It is concluded that the confinement of orcas within aquaria, and their use in entertainment programs, is morally indefensible, given their high intelligence, complex behaviors, and the apparent adverse effects on orcas of such confinement and use”. With orcas, or killer whales, being so intelligent captivity doesn’t suit these animals with an example being that though there have been killer whale attacks on humans before, there has never been reported killer whale attacks in the wild only in captivity. In relation to killer whales, zoos and aquariums that offer shows with animals as performers could also be putting both the animals and trainers in danger.
Killer whales have been used in many animal shows across marine parks and aquariums and many incidents involving the trainers and the orcas have occurred in these places, some even killing the trainers. There is even a documentary called Blackfish about a specific killer whale named Tilikum, that spent almost all of his life in captivity, who was responsible for three human deaths, two being trainers and the other being a trespasser that got into his tank. The documentary shows the controversy of keeping such large animals, being killer whales, in captivity performing shows and how inhumane these situations can be. The documentary also gives insight to how captivity can affect animals as they can become aggressive to people and each other making them dangerous, depressed if not provided sufficient enrichment, and sick due to close confinement with other orcas. Though most zoos and aquariums have breeding programs and some even have bred for reintroduction programs this method of conservation has a few downsides. In the article “An Emerging Role of Zoos to Conserve Biodiversity” by D.
A. Conde, it explains how socio-political factors can determine the success of a reintroduction program. For example, the reintroduction of Arabian oryx was hindered by poaching and that was probably a result of “because local communities were insufficiently involved in conservation efforts” as stated by D. A. Conde. In this article, it also explains that captive breeding is expensive and many technical difficulties could be present in a captive breeding program, one including hybridization or the breeding amoung of different species of organisms. Captive breeding could also affect the animal if it were to be released, since being born in captivity would null the natural instinct that a wild-born animal would have in the wild. In the article “Captive Breeding and Reintroduction” by Katherine Ralls and Jonathan D Ballou they explain how captive-bred animals “tend to survive for a shorter period due to lack of appropriate behaviors”.
This would mean that some reintroductions don’t work as most expect them to and because captive bred and born animals don’t have the same instincts as a wild member of that species would have, they don’t manage to survive long enough to provide an impact on the population of their species. On the contrary to that idea in the same article, by Katherine Ralls and Jonathan D Ballou, they explain that captive breeding is the only choice for some species that are extinct or nearly extinct in the wild with them explaining that about one-fourth of mammals, 12% of birds and nearly one-third of amphibians are threatened to go extinct in the near future. Captive breeding does have its advantages but it is not an easy method to help improve and save endangered or threatened animal populations.
In an article written by Devra G. Kleiman it states ” Perhaps four or five of the fewer than twenty mammalian reintroductions using captive-bred animals have been successful in establishing viable populations” meaning reintroduction really isn’t a viable way on its own to help conservation efforts and though zoos keep trying it probably won’t do much in the future. As to add to the fact reintroduction isn’t the best it is an extremely costly process as all the equipment needed to prepare the animal for reintroduction, transport the animal, and to later monitor the specimens progress in the wild makes the costs of reintroduction prohibiting.
As Kleiman states in their article “Reintroduction should never override other approaches to conservation, but it must work in tandem with them” proving reintroduction isn’t the best idea on its own but maybe with help from other conservation methods it could have a chance to succeed. There has also been the problem of housing large animals in zoos and aquariums and whether or not zoo exhibits have and provide enough space for their animals to be happy. Elephants are one of those big animals that has faced a lot of controversy on whether or not they should be kept in zoos, if the space provided for them in the zoos that have elephants is enough for them, and if there are enough elephants in zoos, to satisfy the social need elephants have. The debate also stretches to wild elephants since poaching, habitat loss, and human conflicts reduce the wild number of elephants and the situations in zoos make this a complicated controversy or debate. In the article “Do Elephants Belong in Zoos?” written by Jeffrey P. Cohn it covers the debate on whether elephants, being the large animals that they are, belong in zoos calling it “complicated” because of the wild elephant populations are dropping. He also explains how most zoos can’t house the ample amount of individuals that would contribute to “the kinship groups” that wild elephants would create in the wild that would usually consist of mothers, juveniles, babies, and a few adult male elephants. Animals that usually live with others of the same species in the wild can become depressed or sick if their social need is not met.
The article states that elephants can walk up to, or around, fifty miles in a day and according to passage “When they don’t move, that’s when they have physical problems.” and they give examples of problems that can arise such as foot infections and explains “elephants in captivity typically die at about age 40, while those in the wild live into their 70s”. It is also found that more than seventy-five elephants have been euthanized in zoos throughout the years, many before the age of 40 (vittana.org). With the huge difference in lifespan it provides evidence on how zoos can’t satisfy the needs these elephants need and shows how different the life of a wild elephant is compared to that of an elephant in captivity as wild elephants probably wouldn’t have to worry about getting a foot infection from lack of physical activity.
In this passage they provide some ways zoos have been working to keep the well-being of the elephants a top priority with some zoos now walking their elephants daily, mostly before the zoo opens. At the Oregon Zoo these walks with proper medical care have eliminated elephant deaths and euthanasia due to foot infections in 1988 as explained in the article meaning they have found some ways to help the elephant’s need to constantly be moving and walking. This could also apply to many other large animals and animal species known to travel long distances throughout the day such as giraffes or bears.
Zoos and aquariums could also set a bad example for children in the future as well. Children are very impressionable and when they go to a zoo and see the animals in their enclosure, which could be very restricting for the animals at times, they get the impression that it is okay to put animals into enclosures just for entertainment (vittana.org).
Zoos could be sending a bad message for children telling them that keeping these animals in enclosures just for the purpose of entertainment is an acceptable practice and could shape their ideas of animal confinement. There are alternatives to zoos and aquariums that help animals in great ways such as animal Sanctuaries, wildlife rescues, and wildlife rehabilitation centers. The Clearwater Marine Aquarium could be considered a wildlife rehab center as well as a functioning aquarium that teaches its guest about the importance of conservation and protecting the world’s oceans. Animal sanctuaries are places that provide care to abused, rescued, unwanted, discarded, or injured animals with the sanctuaries sometimes having specific types of animals they take care of such as equine, avian, or wild animals. Wildlife rescues and rehabilitation centers are like sanctuaries but, they are temporary homes for displaced, such as a wild raccoon in a house, injured, sick, or orphaned animals whether they are wild or domestic.
The Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation in San Antonio, Texas is a wildlife rescue whose main focus and goal is on their website, which states that “WRR rescues orphaned, injured, and displaced wildlife and returns the majority to the wild. We also provide permanent care in large natural enclosures to farmed and non-releasable wildlife” (http://wildlife-rescue.org).
Their main focus to help animals heal then to release them back into the wild as soon as they can, if the animal can be released, is a great way to assist in the conservation of species and provides a great alternative to have animals in zoos and breeding to release them for conservation purposes. Their website also states that they have about six hundred permanent sanctuary residents which shows that they are willing to take care of the animals they can’t release due to complications in the animal’s health or well-being but, their enclosures, unlike most zoos, is spacious, with 212 acres of wooded land, and has plenty of enrichment for their permanent resident animals. Some of these sanctuaries and rescues can even have specified visit days and hours so the public can view the animals they take care of and learn more about them and possibly even their stories. These sanctuaries, rescues, and rehab centers are sort of like friendlier alternatives to a typical zoo or aquarium as they work to help return their animals into the wild and to educate the public and to not just have the animals for entertainment purposes. Zoos and aquariums have a lot of controversy surrounding them and how they manage their animals. Some of these controversies and debates include if wildlife should be kept in captivity, where they keep their animals, if the enclosures are the appropriate size and contain all the animal’s needs, how their animals are treated, how they impact their general audience, and if they should be reintroducing their animals back into the wild. There has also research on the phycology of animals on how captivity can make zoo animals aggressive to both people and other animals.
However, some zoos and aquariums do a lot for conservation efforts and threatened or endangered animal species. They can raise funds for conservation charities and foundations, work with different foundations to help bring back threatened and endangered species, be a place for research on different animals to learn more about how we can assist with future conservation efforts, and they can even function as a rehabilitation and rescue center for local species. To add to that, population gains in endangered species have been reported as a result of zoo conservation and help. Zoos and aquariums can really help out animal species even with the concern of animal welfare and care.
It is visible to see a lot of pros and cons surrounding zoos and aquariums and whether zoos and aquariums are good places for animals to be kept. Animals should probably be kept in the wild, though help from time to time from people could benefit them as well, such as rescue and rehabilitation services helping injured animals. Zoos and aquariums should shift their focus from public entertainment to mainly providing assistance for wildlife.
From there, controversies and debates may die down and then places such as zoos and aquariums would not be painted as bad or inhumane places.