On my recent visit to New York, I made a trip to the Bronx Zoo. For years I have loved visiting zoos, and while my children were young, we took advantage of the family zoo pass, which is transferrable to many zoos across the country.
Zoos have long played a role in wildlife education and conservation. That is more important today than ever.
The Bronx Zoo is also a leader in wildlife conservation and the headquarters for the Wildlife Conservation Society, which is working with officials in Malaysia to stop people from hunting exotic birds for their feathers.
“We have to learn how to live in harmony with the animals around us and how to just think a little bit more before we do certain things,” said Sara S. Marinello of the Wildlife Conservation Society.
According to Teacher.Scholastic.com, the San Diego Zoo has opened the Conservation and Research for Endangered Species Center. That zoo is known for helping save the giant panda. Three panda cubs have been born there, and it has the largest population of giant pandas outside China. Scientists with the zoo also are studying African wild dogs in Zambia and forest birds in Hawaii, and they are working to save iguanas in the Turks and Caicos Islands east of Cuba.
“Farmers in Africa,” the website says, “think the spotted cheetah is an annoying pest. So they trap and kill them. Now cheetahs are in danger of disappearing forever. The National Zoo in Washington, D.C., is trying to change that through the Cheetah Conservation Fund in Namibia. Scientists there are showing farmers that they don’t have to kill cheetahs to keep them off their farms.”
Several endangered species worldwide are no longer found in the wild, but only in zoos, such as the Guam Micronesian kingfisher. Their decline was due to a non-native brown snake, which escaped to the island from a naval ship during World War II. In 1985, a consortium of U.S. zoos went to Guam to capture the island’s last 29 wild native kingfishers – brilliantly colored blue and orange, robin-sized birds – to start a captive breeding rescue effort. By the 1990s, 60 of the birds were living in zoos across the country, and the population now is 134 – all in zoos.
Further, it has been through zoos’ education, research, and captive breeding programs that many other species have been kept from extinction or becoming endangered. According to Kelly Traw in Scientific American, “… the Association of Zoos and Aquarium’s Species Survival Plan Program and related programs have helped bring black-footed ferrets, California condors, red wolves and several other endangered species back from the brink of extinction over the last three decades.”
You can aid in the effort of bringing back endangered species by supporting zoos, or organizations that fund saving habitats. Remember one of the Green mottos – “Think globally – act locally.”