Do Zoos Actually Increase the Population of Endangered Species?
In this world today, there is a subsiding slope of endangered animal population, with a result of some species going completely extinct, meaning that species will never exist again. In fact, The World Wildlife Fund estimates that somewhere between 200 and 2000 species go extinct every year. We as a community have tried multiple ways to prevent species from going nonexistent. Examples being, protecting the wildlife habitat, nature reserves, and lastly research and knowledge. By providing “safe habitats, medical care, and a nurturing environment for their animals,” zoos and nature reserves are the best defense we have against a continuing loss of species, according to staff of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Zoos provide a safe place to salvage endangered animals temporarily, but the more permanent solution is to translocate the species to environments that can sustain them permanently. Zoos, aquariums and nature reserves help increase the population of different species and protect endangered animals through different research, funding, translocations, conservation areas and breeding.
As we know the wildlife population has been substantially decreasing day after day. The declining number of species is putting the world into a biodiversity crisis. In spite of that, conservation translocations could help reverse this situation by rehabilitating small populations or allowing new ones to start. Conservation translocation intentionally moves and releases plants, animals, or fungi into the wild in order to save them from extinction. One of the most well known attempts of conservation translocation is Richard Henry’s attempt to save flightless birds back in 1895. He did this by relocating these birds from New Zealand’s mainland to a predator-free Resolution Island in the Fiordland area. Even though his attempt failed, his effort to save the birds led to countless numbers of conservation translocation throughout the world. However, these practices weren’t popular until the 1970’s and 80’s. That is when the amount of conservation translocations started to increase and gained the reintroduction of eminent species. Many zoological organizations have evolved conservation management. This causes them to strengthen and broaden their activities, increasing the result of wildlife population restrictions. With that being said, “species are becoming ‘conservation reliant’ each requiring a variety of conservation approaches for their continued survival,” according to Tania Gilbert and Pritpal Soorae in The Role of Zoos and Aquariums in Reintroductions and Other Conservation Translocations.
Zoos have different strategies to prevent extinction of species who aren’t capable of surviving in their own habitats. A strategy that is popular is captive breeding, where animals are being bred outside of their natural habitat in restricted areas such as farms, zoos, and aquariums. The goal of captive breeding is to grow the population enough to the point where it can be controlled and become stable or where the species is healthy. With this, in Saving Endangered Species: A Case Study Using Global Amphibian Declines Emily Croteau makes a claim: “These objectives ensure that populations will exhibit a healthy age structure, resistance to disease, consistent reproduction, and preservation of the gene pool to minimize and/or avoid problems associated with inbreeding.” An example of a successful breeding in captivity would be the black-footed ferret and the California condor. They were species that were near extinction and with captive breeding were able to increase their population. On the other hand, captive breeding can lead to inbreeding. Causes of inbreeding are lower reproduction and growth rates, higher mortality rates and frequency of hereditary abnormalities. To contradict that from happening, zoos try to prevent this by relying on explicit pedigrees to sustain genetic diversity long term. With captive breeding most of the animals aren’t able to return back to the natural environment, however it isn’t impossible. In some cases animals are strong enough to return back into the wild and live their life as they would if they had never left.
Not only does captive breeding help grow the species population, there are a lot of benefits that come with it. For instance, it can help educate the people about the different animals and their habitats which can create funds for research and shelters. Education and public awareness is important to helping endangered animals because we can learn how to rescue them and raise money towards funds so more research can be done. Zoos and aquariums are major benefits when it comes to raising public awareness by allowing younger individuals to learn and become interested and appreciate wildlife. Most zoos and aquariums contain information about each species, stating where their habitats are, what they eat, how long they live for and different facts about them. Having this information on display gives the people knowledge on their local environments or environments around the world. This can help citizens to acknowledge the fact that they need to protect and clean the environment around them so the animals can live in safer areas. This then can prevent the animal’s population from decreasing.
In the end, it is going to be a hard and long process for endangered animals to reach a point where their populations will be strong enough to repopulate on their own. There will also be challenges to overcome as well, examples being, “habitat loss, over-exploitation, the impact of invasive species and climate change”. However, zoos, aquariums and nature reserves have an enormous role in helping this come true through protected areas, translocations, captive breeding and public awareness. Everyday conservationists are adapting to new changes and challenges, but they can’t do it by themselves. They need exposure and help from the human population. And zoos and aquariums are the best way to get public awareness. Regardless of the incline of endangered species, the slope would be tremendously steeper without the help of zoos and nature reserves. Ultimately, By various forms of study, funding, translocation, conservation areas, and breeding, zoos, aquariums, and nature reserves contribute to the growth of various species and the protection of creatures in risk of extinction.
Gilbert, T., & Soorae, P. S. (n.d.). Editorial: The role of zoos and aquariums in … – wiley online library. Retrieved March 7, 2023, from https://zslpublications.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/izy.12164
Staff, A. (n.d.). How zoos and aquariums protect endangered species. Association of Zoos & Aquariums. Retrieved March 6, 2023, from https://www.aza.org/connect-stories/stories/how-do-zoos-help-animals?locale=en
Croteau, E., & Mott, C. L. (2011). Saving Endangered Species: A Case Study Using Global Amphibian Declines | Learn Science at Scitable. Nature.com. https://www.nature.com/scitable/knowledge/library/saving-endangered-species-a-case-study-using-19445898/
I will leave “Startup Advice” as a Reply to your Causal Rewrite post, DogLover.