The Role of Zoos in Biodiversity Conservation

The thought of another extinction sits and weighs on many of our heads today. Something as massive and horrendous as this, leading you to believe only such a horrific event could cause this, like when our planet was hit by an asteroid over 65 million years ago, wiping out almost a hundred percent of prehistoric mammoths. But as we sit here, going day to day, living out our lives, the more simplistic things to a more obvious cause, like the emission of fossil fuels, buying things for your house, or getting a new phone, all play a large part in this.

We are all contributing to this extinction in someway. So the question is, what do we do to help prevent another mass extinction, do we just stop all of our methods of creating our day to day essentials or do we take a step forward, to directly help the species. We all know that our governments and economy, won’t allow us to stop the processes that we take for granted.

We all can hope that “specifically the politicians that make the decisions on conservation funding, urging them to consider the potential of zoos to take on the biodiversity challenge that is facing us, a possible mass extinction that could turn our zoos into living museums” (The Dodo). But it just doesn’t end here, we don’t just give up because what we do to the world will slowly impact us. So this is where zoos come into play, they are essential to helping biodiversity still exist, there conservation programs and efforts will help in the end and they’ve already made an impact! It is said that “As a result, conservation breeding programs (CBPs) may offer the only feasible option to avoid the extinction of particular species until appropriate habitat can be found or restored.

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“Today’s zoos and aquariums are uniquely positioned to combat those evolving threats. Using robust and sophisticated breeding programs, these institutions fund and facilitate countless initiatives to propagate species and preserve genetic biodiversity, and then reintroduce critically endangered or extinct species into the wild” (Dr. Ganzert). But this doesn’t go without a doubt that not every zoo is performing the way they’re intended to be. Dave Hone had once mention in his writing that

However, I am perfectly willing to recognise that there are bad zoos and bad individual exhibits. Not all animals are kept perfectly, much as I wish it were otherwise, and even in the best examples, there is still be room for improvement. But just as the fact that some police are corrupt does not mean we should not have people to enforce the law, although bad zoos or exhibits persist does not mean they are not worthwhile institutes. (Hone) With there always being room to improve, we can state that the positive impacts zoos have on both society and biodiversity of animals outways the negative impacts, therefore becoming a necessary quandary.

When going to a zoo you may of heard the word conservation be spoken or seen written on signs. Conservation, the act of saving, protecting something in particular, is a large, key factor, to a better future zoos are providing. The undeviating, continuous line of the diminished diversity still is persistent. The fact is that “The conservation status of known biodiversity has undergone a worrying decline in the last few decades. If the present trends continue, the conservation community will be challenged with a large number of species for which there is no viable conservation outcome” (Dalia Conde 1). These breeding programs truly do impact large numbers of organisms who are under the pressure of extinction. It is said by Zoo Victoria that “This contribution has an impact. A 2010 study by IUCN found that conservation breeding in zoos and aquariums played a role in the recovery of 28% of the species listed as threatened in the wild.” But why worry about concentration, why is animal extinction and the effects on biodiversity really relevant to both us and nature? Biodiversity is extremely beneficial, It allows a population of a species to continue thriving under diverse genes which gives them the better chance of survival from the more undesirable genes. As species begin to die off, decrease in population density, they leave a chain reaction behind. As time progresses, more and more species begin to struggle in the lack of diversity and begin to lead to a population decrease as the unfavored genes begin to pass amongst the affected populations.

Zoos ensure that we won’t be affected by this chain reaction, that the ecological niches will continue out and we can continue thriving from the benefits provided. Even with a larger population size compared to that of a smaller human population over four decades ago. We have to “Consider the Arabian Oryx, a striking breed of antelope from the Arabian Peninsula. The species was hunted to extinction in the wild nearly four decades ago, when the last wild Arabian Oryx was shot and killed in 1972” (Dr. Ganzert). We look at this and know that humans are the leading cause to this species extinction, to what we thought. But zoos provided, conserved to what we thought of as an extinct species and brought them back into the wild. Like Dr. Robin Ganzert stated and proved that “The Phoenix Zoo helped lead the ensuing breeding and reintroduction programs, which ultimately birthed more than 200 calves from just nine individuals. Now between Oman and Jordan, there are about 1,000 Arabian Oryx living in the wild.” This is an extremely incredible to not only be able to get 200 calves out of just nine individuals which allowed the population to increase and prosper in the wild on their own, but The Phoenix Zoo was able to do this through their conservation programs and efforts. Dave Hone spoke that the zoos are now able to protect against a species that may be leading toward extinction. Protected in a captive setting, such as zoos, provides a reservoir population incase of an extinction or crash of population size in the wild. Allowing a relatively safe and easier way to be able to bread up the population and reintroduce the numbers back into the population. Zoos are providing a stable and more efficient way to guarantee that diversity amongst organisms can continue as the overall population continues to see a downfall in size.

The fact is that not only do zoos provide a better way to reinsure that diversity of ecosystems stays present, but that they also provide a good learning experience amongst kids and adults. It is said that your able to retain more information from actually, physically, being hands on and with this exact method, “Zoos Victoria is one of the State’s largest providers of formal learning outside the classroom. Last year alone, 146,136 students embarked on learning experiences at Zoos Victoria, seeking greater connections with wildlife and the skills needed to equip our children with as they inherit stewardship of a stressed planet” (Zoo Victoria). Reports say that once being exposed to certain things, in this case, wild animals from foreign lands, that you may of only seen in a book or on television, gives people the urges to do more. The urge to help the movement for conservation efforts become reality, to help preserve these organisms that we couldn’t see be lost to extinction and that we, as a society, may of led this population to its demise. To our surprise, zoos not only draw in children but they also attract a lot of the older generations. Through an eavesdropping survey conducted in a zoo, that while observing the animals “most visitors talked surprisingly little. Yet they appeared to the observers to feel closer knit as a result of the visit, judging by their body language, as if there were a special bond that crystallized only in the presence of animals” (Ackermann).

The simple task of being able to go through a zoo and feeling closer to the animals has truly changed the thoughts and actions of many people today. It’s hard to see the truth behind the low numbers of animals populations in the world and people do take action. Over 131,000 people donated their old mobile phones to help raise more than 228,000 dollars for a gorilla conservation program or just seventeen percent of visitors switched to recycled toilet paper in a report done by Zoo Victoria. But even with awareness of conservation efforts, the lack of smaller species still goes unrecognised. People tend to put more effort in the much larger, more noticeable species like a tiger or whale, but even smaller species play just as important role in an ecosystem than you may of believed. Zoos are taking a step in the direction of making this be more known amongst people and they’ve encouraged people to better understand this pro-conservation attitude. In a tested program “a learning experience that introduced students to the Growling Grass Frog. At the beginning students were assessed as placing little value on the frog. After completing the program, the same students strongly believed the frog deserved the same conservation investment as the Southern White Rhino” (Zoo Victoria). But just the overall role zoos are providing, to better educate people, to inspire them to make better decisions in their lives. Trying to start off better decision making, “Much of this is aimed at children, the future decision makers, and it is hoped that a love of animals will carry over into their choices during adult life” (The Dodo). But going day to day, working harder and harder, both zoos and there followers help provide our children a future in which isn’t impacted on the poor actions that our generation has made.

The portrayal people put on zoos can be quite misleading when it comes to animal welfare and there wellbeing. We can’t avoid the fact that zoo enclosures restrict and “The animal is deprived of its natural habitat” or “the animal is forced into close proximity with other species and human beings which may be unnatural for it” (BBC). It is also reported that the animals can sometimes become bored or depressed being cooped up in this non-natural habitat. Even with all of these potential negative circumstances that an animal may experience, most show that they are happy and actually less stressed out than maybe of one who is found in the wild. The simple fact behind it is that the zoos provide the animals with the ability to “be spared bullying or social ostracism or even infanticide by others of their kind, or a lack of a suitable home or environment in which to live. A lot of very nasty things happen to truly ‘wild’ animals that simply don’t happen in good zoos and to cast a life that is ‘free’ as one that is ‘good’ is” (Dave Hone). Continuing on the restricted enclosures some zoos provide, it can be argued that even though “Their movement might be restricted (but not necessarily by that much) but they will not suffer from the threat or stress of predators (and nor will they be killed in a grisly manner or eaten alive) or the irritation and pain of parasites, injuries and illnesses will be treated, they won’t suffer or die of drought or starvation and indeed will get a varied and high-quality diet with all the supplements required” (Dave Hone). But another point that could be argued is whether or not a thousand meter fence, obviously restricting animals movement to that of a 10000 kilometer fence, which also can potentially “limit” an animals movement.

Many reports even state there agreement with the possible limitation of organisms occurring in our captivity or plainly just in the wild, being that of a fence or urbanization. Hone even says that there is lack of a difference between putting down a 1000 km long fence around the Masai Mara to really be captivity, even if it restricts the movement of animals with a bariar than thousand meter fence. But we have to ask at what point does does it become considered captivity? He even points out that zoos are captivity and that there is a clear continuum between zoos, wildlife parks, national parks, to game reserves and protected areas. “Degree of care and degree of enclosure make the idea of ‘captivity’ fluid and not absolute.”The importance of conservation efforts is carried out through the majority of zoos and can be seen in both their employees and the animals.

With the knowledgement zoos provide to many people and there warm hearted attitude toward the animals wellbeing help continues providing the multiple species that are or were on the verge of extinction to be able to bounce back and thrive in the wild though these numerable conservation programs. Some sacrificed amenities and a full natural habitat that zoos make are all essential to help continue these larger breeding programs. These small losses is overseen by the truth behind the amount of animals reintroduced into the wild through the breeding, conservation program. Even with the lack of a natural inhabitant or other amenities, you can’t avoid the truth about what good that these non profitable zoos are doing for biodiversity. Zoos are essential to maintaining a diverse, healthy habitat and have a clear positive impact on both society and biodiversity of animals.

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The Role of Zoos in Biodiversity Conservation. (2022, May 15). Retrieved from

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