AboutZoos, Since 2008


The value of zoos accord­ing to WAZA

pub­lished 30 April 2016 | mod­i­fied 20 May 2017

The World Asso­ci­a­tion of Zoos and Aquar­i­ums (WAZA) pro­vides the fol­low­ing rea­sons to jus­tify the keep­ing of wild ani­mals in captivity,and why peo­ple need to sup­port and cel­e­brate zoos.

1. Wildlife con­ser­va­tion and Species preser­va­tion
Extinc­tion is a very real prob­lem and schol­ars say we’re in the mid­dle of the 6th mass extinc­tion. This means we’re deal­ing with the worst loss of species since the extinc­tion of the dinosaurs 65 mil­lion years ago. Zoos and aquar­i­ums pro­tect ani­mals from extinc­tion through reg­u­lated breed­ing pro­grammes. With­out these types of efforts, fewer species would be alive today. What would the future be like with­out the Sea otter, Cal­i­for­nia con­dor, or the Przewalski’s horse? Zoos aren’t sit­ting around to find out.
The world zoo and aquar­ium com­mu­nity has the largest poten­tial con­ser­va­tion net­work in the world. Pre­serv­ing indi­vid­ual species in human care is not enough to pro­tect global bio­di­ver­sity. Con­ser­va­tion of intact ecosys­tems is the only chance for the sur­vival of our planet’s wildlife. A steadily increas­ing num­ber of zoos and aquar­i­ums have rec­og­nized that the real chal­lenge of bio­di­ver­sity con­ser­va­tion is sav­ing wild species and habi­tats. To sup­port this com­mit­ment to con­ser­va­tion WAZA devel­oped a Con­ser­va­tion Strat­egy.

2. Edu­cate
Zoos and aquar­i­ums teach the pub­lic about bio­di­ver­sity, cli­mate change and sus­tain­abil­ity. They reach mil­lions of peo­ple all over the world. Most vis­i­tors live in urban areas and have lit­tle or no con­tact with nature. They come to the zoo or aquar­ium because they have an inter­est in ani­mals. The world’s lead­ing zoos and aquar­i­ums employ spe­cial­ists to design their con­ser­va­tion edu­ca­tion pro­grammes. Zookeep­ers also pro­vide vis­i­tors with tips and tricks on how daily actions can sup­port wildlife.

3. Research
The role of the zoo and aquar­ium has evolved to pri­or­i­tize research, edu­ca­tion, and con­ser­va­tion. Through their liv­ing col­lec­tions, zoos and aquar­i­ums are uniquely placed to con­tribute to conservation-​related research. They may under­take research to fur­ther their own as well as other insti­tu­tions’ aims (e.g. by col­lab­o­rat­ing with uni­ver­si­ties). Research cat­e­gories include: behav­iour, genet­ics, dis­eases and repro­duc­tion; field sur­veys; and vis­i­tor learning.

4. Raise Aware­ness
Vis­it­ing a zoo or aquar­ium is a great way for indi­vid­u­als and fam­i­lies to gain emo­tional ties to wildlife and par­tic­i­pate in con­ser­va­tion ini­tia­tives. Con­ser­va­tion mes­sages relayed to vis­i­tors aid in teach­ing them how to con­tribute to the preser­va­tion of wildlife and their related habi­tats. With global cam­paigns such as WAZA’s Bio­di­ver­sity is Us that pro­vides tools for rais­ing aware­ness about bio­di­ver­sity, and WCS’s 96 Ele­phants cam­paign that high­lights the plight of African ele­phants and the ivory trade (96 ele­phants are killed each day in Africa) — the zoo and aquar­ium com­mu­nity plays a part in the global aware­ness rais­ing efforts.

5. Keep live ani­mals
Zoos and aquar­i­ums pro­vide vis­i­tors with an unfor­get­table expe­ri­ence when they inter­act with live ani­mals, and that makes a big impact on vis­i­tors. Many chil­dren and adults who live in cities may never see a wild ani­mal. There is some­thing to be said about com­ing face to face with a moun­tain gorilla or even our local fauna such as the red fox that changes a person’s per­spec­tive. Through such inter­ac­tions, vis­i­tors to zoos and aquar­i­ums learn to have a greater appre­ci­a­tion for wildlife!

6. Pro­vide Recre­ation
’Edu-​tainment’ is a port­man­teau that’s com­monly used in the zoo and aquar­ium com­mu­nity. Zoos not only pro­vide an edu­ca­tional expe­ri­ence, but offer a relax­ing envi­ron­ment to spend a won­der­ful day out with your fam­ily. Zoos and aquar­i­ums seam­lessly blend edu­ca­tion with enter­tain­ment. When a vis­i­tor is truly engaged dur­ing a guided tour with a keeper, or if a teacher needs help get­ting the younger stu­dents to focus and learn some­thing new, vis­it­ing the local zoo or aquar­ium could be just what the doc­tor ordered. More­over, most zoos not only serve as hubs for recre­ation, but also play a very impor­tant role in serv­ing as an ‘oasis’ in an oth­er­wise urban environment.

7. Fundraise
The col­lec­tive social, polit­i­cal and finan­cial power of zoos and aquar­i­ums as a com­mu­nity, as well as the poten­tial impact of such vast audi­ences, can be truly potent! There are over 700 mil­lion vis­its to zoos and aquar­i­ums around the world every year. In 2010 it was esti­mated that the world zoo and aquar­ium com­mu­nity report­edly spends about US$ 350 mil­lion on wildlife con­ser­va­tion each year. How­ever this might have already increased. For exam­ple, The National Zoo in Wash­ing­ton D.C. has just raised 60.1 mil­lion and has a goal of 80 mil­lion specif­i­cally des­ig­nated to save species!

8. Care for Ani­mals
Zoos and aquar­i­ums are filled with wildlife experts from con­ser­va­tion sci­en­tists, to vet­eri­nar­i­ans. The staff of a zoo or aquar­ium don’t work in ‘the­ory’ but actu­ally have hands-​on prac­tice and train­ing, and that’s exactly what sets them apart from other insti­tu­tions or organ­i­sa­tions. Zoos and aquar­i­ums read­ily accept the respon­si­bil­ity that comes with main­tain­ing and car­ing for ani­mals. The WAZA devel­oped a World Zoo and Aquar­ium Ani­mal Wel­fare Strat­egy titled “Car­ing for Wildlife” in 2015. The strat­egy pro­vides fur­ther guid­ance to zoos and aquar­i­ums to achieve high stan­dards of ani­mal wel­fare in sup­port of their con­ser­va­tion, edu­ca­tional, research and recre­ational goals.

9. Advo­cate
Zoos and aquar­i­ums take action! The com­mu­nity works on both the national and the inter­na­tional level when it comes to chang­ing pol­icy. Some fan­tas­tic cam­paigns ini­ti­ated by zoos and aquar­i­ums that have made a real impact are:
- Zoos & Aquar­i­ums 350 (reduc­ing cli­mate change impact)
- ‘Don’t Palm Us Off’ (sup­port palm oil labelling)
- ‘You Buy, They Die’ (help stop ille­gal wildlife trade)

(Source: WAZA press release, 22.04.2016)

UN Biodiversity decade
WWF Stop Wildlife Crime
Fight for Flight campaign
End Ivory-funded Terrorism
Support Rewilding Europe
NASA State of Flux

Goal: 7000 tigers in the wild

Tiger range countries map

Tiger map” (CC BY 2.5) by Sander­son et al., 2006.

about zoos and their mis­sion regard­ing breed­ing endan­gered species, nature con­ser­va­tion, bio­di­ver­sity and edu­ca­tion, which of course relates to the evo­lu­tion of species.
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