The 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.
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.
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.
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.
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)