What do you think about zoos?  If you’re ambivalent about their message and morality, then you might find Gordon Eaglesham’s blog a useful aid to your thinking, and that of your students.  The post refers to Chris Packham’s recent article on zoos and their role in conservation, for the BBC Wildlife magazine.  This is as honest an appreciation / critique as I’ve come across, and deserves to be taken seriously especially by zoos themselves.  There are lots of opinions about zoos and their policies.  For example, OneKind, a UK animal protection charity, argues that it is misguided to breed yet more captive animals in zoos if they will never return to the wild; especially if there is not improved protection for the wild population in their native habitat.  In saying this, it was specifically discussing the pandas in Edinburgh zoo, but, as Chris Packham says, the rationale applies to many animals:

“… There are species that should simply never be kept captive. Modern zoos have to be about education and developing an affinity for – and a real desire to conserve – wild life. Yes, I know some zoos preach that they are ‘arks’, protecting rare animals from extinction and captive-breeding them for potential release back to the wild. And with invertebrates, reptiles and amphibians there have been a few notable successes.  But among big, charismatic mammals there have been mainly failures. Disasters involving releases of lions, tigers, gorillas, rhinos and – dare I say it – giant pandas. These are vanity projects. There’s little safe ‘wild’ left for these ill-equipped individuals to return to, and little hope of them ever surviving. And when the day dawns, as it surely will, when there are no wild tigers or rhinos, what will their captive counterparts then represent?”

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