As Jeremy Hance has extremely well pointed out in his article on Mongabay of May 2014, the last few decades zoos have been paying more and more attention to nature conservation efforts. So, not just prevention of extinction by keeping species alive in captivity, but prevention of extinction in the wild. Improvements have been made in 'Zoo thinking' about conservation efforts and the contribution zoos can make to prevent the ongoing man-made 6th global mass species extinction. Nevertheless, zoos are not doing enough.
Two things in Hance's article stood out, in my opinion. Firstly, the unequal distribution of the contribution to conservation by well-respected zoos and that only a general 2% of the revenues of zoos in the US are being used for their conservation efforts. I don't know about the situation in Europe, but I expect this to be similar. Secondly, the survey that the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) conducted amongst zoo visitors to measure the biodiversity understanding and knowledge of actions to help protect biodiversity. The results indicate that zoos (and aquariums) can contribute to increasing the number of people who understand biodiversity and know actions they can take to help protect biodiversity. But let's not be too positive about these results because it appears that only an 8% increase of understanding could be identified amongst people after their zoo visit.
There's work to be done here! Although the conservation efforts of zoos (and aquariums) are to be applauded, I fully agree with the notions in Hance's article that zoos are not innovative enough, and have a very traditional way of thinking, still. They should find a way to get the story across.
An example of innovative education, sourcing social media, that WAZA has launched can be watched here:
The comprehensive and alarming article of Hance about what zoos are doing, and what should improve – develop a new model for zoo conservation – to increase the impact they have on conservation worldwide, could be a source of inspiration for zoo professionals. It is inspiring me, a common zoo enthusiast.
The excellent article of Jeremy Hance can be read here.
(Sources: Mongabay, 19.05.2014; WAZA)