Ok, not just any zoo. One of the good ones.
I stand with the anti-zoo groups when it comes to those that do not care for their charges and do not contribute to animal welfare.
I’m grateful to those who rally to have unscrupulous zoos closed.
However, suggesting all zoos should close is like throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
It is thanks to zoos that some species have been brought back from the brink of extinction.
The argument that wildlife should be allowed to roam free is a valid one. However, the reality is that what little space we humans have left for wildlife is riddled with threats to their wellbeing.
Let me ask you a question. What’s your definition of freedom?
WHY WE MAY NEED TO SACRIFICE SOME FREEDOM TO BE FREE
I was asked this by a guide during a visit to China. The guide said that Chinese residents had much more freedom than the rest of the world imagined. She went on to explain that the thousands of cameras covering their every move ensured that women could walk down the road in the middle of the night without fear of being hurt.
“That’s freedom, isn’t it?” she asked.
“Do you have that kind of freedom?”
It sure gave me pause for thought.
Then I thought about the animals roaming free in wildlife reserves. Under constant threat of being cruelly slaughtered for a tusk, or a trophy. How free are they really?
FREEDOM FROM EXTINCTION
The thing that reputable zoos offer wildlife is freedom from extinction.
- There were only 27 Californian Condors left when San Diego Wild Animal Park and the Los Angeles Zoo joined forces to bring them back from the brink of extinction.
- Przewalski’s Horse was once declared extinct in the wild. Thanks to a breeding program organised through international cooperation of zoos, it has made an impressive comeback.
- The Arabian Oryx was once listed as extinct in the wild, but work at Phoenix Zoo, among others, has ensured there are more than 1000 in the wild and thousands more protected at zoos.
- The North American bison was on the brink of extinction due to slaughter and destruction of grazing lands when The Bronx Zoo, New York, stepped in to help with a breeding program to save them.
- Closer to home, Taronga Zoo in Sydney, Australia, has helped to save the Northern Corroboree Frog, which was on the brink of extinction in the 1990s and is still considered one of Australia’s most threatened species.
Taronga Zoo annually releases eggs and tadpoles into the wild and as of March 2018, a total of 1486 eggs/tadpoles and 320 frogs had been released. A team monitors their survival and celebrated the best results so far last year, coinciding with the maturing and breeding of the juvenile males and females released in 2014.
- All hope was given up for Lister’s Gecko until it was rediscovered in 2009. Taronga, with the help of others, established an insurance breeding population in Sydney and is doing research on its native Christmas Island to understand its threats in the wild.
THE ZOO AND RESEARCH
The zoo contributes to 14 recovery programs with zoo-based breeding, developing husbandry protocols and for some species, releasing animals back into the wild.
Taronga Zoo has conservation partnerships with other organisations, community groups and conservation experts around the world. The aim is to stop the poaching and trafficking of wildlife and to protect and regenerate vegetation. Also, to increase understanding of our impact on wildlife within communities.
Much of the work involves research to understand the dangers to wildlife and how to minimise them.
One such project uses acoustic monitoring and genetic analyses to help understand the wild Port Jackson Shark social networks.
Working hand in hand with other groups, Taronga Zoo is researching the impacts of river system regulation, such as dams and diversions, and climate change on platypus health in order to save them from extinction.
THE ZOO AND SAVING LIVES
Taronga Zoo, Sydney, and Taronga Western Plains Zoo, Dubbo, each have wildlife hospitals that care for around 1,400 native animals each year. Many of the animals are brought in by community members who have found sick, injured or orphaned animals. From stranded seals to pelicans tangled in fishing line, the hospitals’ aim to rehabilitate the animals and release them back into the wild whenever possible.
Where does the money come to pay for all this wonderful work? Mainly from the 1.5 million people who visit the zoo each year. Taronga is a not for profit organisation. The money from zoo entry and store purchases is used to help with Taringa’s conservation work.
THE ZOO AND EDUCATION
Taronga Zoo is a favourite destination to take the grandkids. It may be the only place they get to see so many of the world’s wonderful wildlife species.
When they can see, hear, smell and even sometimes touch the animals, they begin to really care about them.
Everywhere you look there are tips for what we can do to help provide a healthy future for the animals.
THE FAMOUS BIRD SHOW
We gratefully sit at the staging area for Taronga’s famous bird show. We have done lots of walking to view all the wonderful animals.
Last year, it was the little sister’s turn – a special excursion before she starts ‘big school’ this year. A few years ago her big sister came with us.
Every time we visit there is something new to see and learn.
The QBE Free Flight Bird Show never disappoints. The view is spectacular – one of the best of Sydney Harbour.
Against this amazing backdrop, we see a condor spread its three-metre wings as it takes to the sky above our heads.
We sit in awe and wonderment as a stream of different birds fly above us in a perfectly choreographed performance.
While we watch the flawless flight, a zookeeper tells us about the biggest threat to various bird species and what we can do to help save them. We are given tips to turn our own yards into wildlife havens.
What better way to encourage young generations to be wildlife ambassadors who care about the planet and all the wonderful creatures it hosts?
That is why you belong in the zoo.
Have a gleeful week, Tamuria.