INTRODUCTION. Ben A. Minteer, Jane Maienschein, and James P. Collins, "Zoo and Aquarium Conservation: Past, Present, Future"
This chapter traces the emergence and development of a distinct conservation mission in zoological parks, including the growth of conservation breeding and reintroduction efforts, conservation education programs, and zoo-based conservation research as zoos are becoming serious players in the wider institutional effort to protect endangered species and slow the loss of global biodiversity. Ethical tensions and challenges surrounding the interplay of zoo animal welfare, recreation and entertainment, and the pursuit of broader conservation goals (linking ex-situ and wild populations) are also addressed. The chapter concludes with an overview of the volume’s main themes and questions, including: the shifting motivations driving zoo and aquarium conservation over time; the diversity of contemporary zoo conservation science and practice; the relationship between ex-situ (zoo) and in-situ (field) conservation efforts; alternative futures for zoo and aquarium conservation; and, finally, the debate over whether zoos can ever be “natural” or “wild” in a significant sense.
CHAPTER 1. Anita Guerrini and Michael A. Osborne, “Animals in Circulation: The ‘Prehistory’ of Modern Zoos”
The “prehistory” of zoos encompasses a wide variety of captivity of exotic animals in Europe. Such animals had value because they were foreign, and they functioned both as status objects and, to naturalists such as Aristotle, as scientific objects. Menageries before 1800 served mainly for aristocratic display, but some, such as Louis XIV’s at Versailles in France, also provided research subjects for the Paris Academy of Sciences. Conservation at early modern zoos meant keeping animals alive for human uses. However, the scientific work associated with zoos and with natural history collections also increased knowledge of these animals, eventually leading to a recognition of the necessity for conservation in the modern sense. France provides a case study of the interactions of government, science, and the public surrounding zoos in the nineteenth century. The Revolution ushered in a reconsideration of the place of animals in nature and new ways to exploit them. As France reconstituted a colonial empire, diplomats, scientists, and landowners aimed to acclimatize exotic animals in the service of domestic agriculture, with zoos as the experimental space. The acclimatization society in Paris eventually transformed into a lobbying group for the preservation and protection of nature.
CHAPTER 2. Harriet Ritvo, “The World as Zoo: Acclimatization in the Nineteenth Century”
Nineteenth-century zoos shared many of the goals of their twentieth-century successors. But in addition to displaying a range of exotic animal species, many of them, including the major metropolitan zoos in London and Paris, also maintained populations of the wild relatives of such domesticates as cattle, sheep, chickens, and turkeys, in the hope of invigorating the local herds and flocks. From the mid-nineteenth-century, most such efforts were carried out by acclimatization societies, which also attempted to introduce exotic wild species and varieties of birds, mammals, and fish that were imagined to be useful or attractive. These initiatives were most effective and transformative in Australia and New Zealand.
CHAPTER 3. Vernon N. Kisling Jr, “Historic and Cultural Foundations of Zoo Conservation: A Narrative Timeline”
Keeping wild animals in captivity has a long history extending back to ancient civilizations. However, zoo and aquarium conservation programs did not emerge until the twentieth century when wildlife conservation in general became important to society. Significant individuals, publications, legislation, and programs pertinent to the evolution of zoo and aquarium conservation efforts are discussed in this chapter. Together, they represent the historic and cultural foundation of the earliest zoo and aquarium efforts to conserve endangered wildlife. How zoo and aquarium conservation programs were affected by society’s broader conservation interests and their role within these broader interests is also considered in this chapter. It is upon these early conservation efforts that the current zoo and aquarium conservation programs rest. This chapter considers whether the current programs are effective and whether they will eventually be successful. What zoos and aquariums need to do in the future is suggested.
CHAPTER 4. Mark V. Barrow Jr, "Teetering on the Brink of Extinction: The Passenger Pigeon, the Bison, and American Zoo Culture in the Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries”
This chapter examines how American zoological gardens responded to the rapid, nearly simultaneous decline of two iconic species at the turn of the nineteenth century: the bison and the passenger pigeon. The North American continent once supported extensive populations of both species, which inspired awe and wonder in the European settlers who encountered them. During the second half of the nineteenth century, however, habitat destruction, competition from exotic species, and especially large-scale commercial exploitation facilitated by newly constructed rail networks produced dramatic declines in both populations. As a result, the bison and the passenger pigeon were both facing extinction by the end of the nineteenth century. Wildlife conservationists successfully mobilized to save the bison, and the New York Zoological Park (opened in 1899) began a captive bison herd that helped repopulate several newly created federal reserves in the West. They failed, however, to rally behind the passenger pigeon, and the last known specimen perished at the Cincinnati Zoo on September 1, 1914. The New York Zoological Park’s captive breeding experiments proved the exception rather than the rule during this period, when zoos remained primarily focused on entertaining and educating the public, rather than trying to save endangered species.
CHAPTER 5. Pamela M. Henson, “American Zoos: A Shifting Balance between Recreation and Conservation”
American zoos went through significant changes in basic goals during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, from parks for recreation and education to centers for conservation of endangered species. From the first American zoo at Philadelphia to the National Zoological Park and Bronx Zoo founded by William Temple Hornaday, to the modern San Diego Wild Animal Park, this chapter traces the transition from menageries designed to entertain to zoological parks designed to educate, and finally to centers of research, breeding and preservation of endangered species. Zoos that once competed to be the only park to display an exotic species now share research and experience in caring for endangered animals, including environment, nutrition, health, behavior, and even the animals themselves. Cooperative Species Survival Plans govern which animals go to what zoos and breed with which animals to ensure genetic diversity. Complex behavioral training prepares animals for reintroduction to their natural environment. But deeper understanding of the genomes of endangered species has raised questions about whether zoo animals reintroduced to the wild are the same as the animals earlier taken from that natural environments. Despite challenges, most people now believe the primary purposes of zoos are education and conservation of endangered species.
CHAPTER 6. Nigel Rothfels, “(Re)Introducing the Przewalski’s Horse”
This chapter critiques general claims about zoological gardens serving as “arks” for species that have become, or are endangered from becoming, extinct in the wild by examining the case of the reintroduction of Przewalski’s horses into China and Mongolia. Although it is clear that the horses being reintroduced are descendants of wild-caught horses brought to Europe at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth centuries, the chapter argues that the differences between today’s horses and the horses of the past are far from trivial and that the “wild horses” being reintroduced today are more the results of western culture than careful conservation. In particular, the chapter examines the expectations of the leaders of the New York Zoological Park (Bronx Zoo) when it acquired and bred Przewalski’s horses, and also explores the historical importance of an error in the official studbook for the animal.
CHAPTER 7. Samantha Muka, “Conservation Constellations: Aquariums in Aquatic Conservation Networks”
Conservation initiatives at public aquariums are performed via a large network of participants. Aquariums work with government organizations, academic institutions, and the general public to enact these initiatives. However, it is difficult to analyze the role of aquariums in conservation while focusing on these larger networks; the diversity of conservation goals is only outpaced by the diversity of aquariums and their work within them. This chapter looks at the history and current practice of conservation at public aquariums in the United States by tracing the history of three separate conservation constellations; that is, it analyzes the role of aquariums, both large and small, in three specific conservation initiatives including those of game fish, ornamental fish, and marine mammals. By tracing these smaller initiatives in the larger conservation network, the chapter shows the variable nature of conservation at aquariums based on the resources and geographical location of each institution.
CHAPTER 8. Rick Barongi, “Committing to Conservation: Can Zoos and Aquariums Deliver on Their Promise?”
This chapter focuses on why and how modern zoos and aquariums must and can play a more significant role in — and have a greater impact on — saving animals in the wild. While a core mission for most zoological parks is conservation, few of these institutions have demonstrated a strong commitment or culture of conservation. This chapter highlights some of the key messages in the 2015 WAZA (World Association of Zoos and Aquariums) Conservation Strategy: Committing to Conservation. Integration with a number of Aichi Biodiversity targets is also demonstrated. The Seven Steps to Conservation Leadership and a Triple Bottom Line business approach to funding conservation programs are other key points in the text. Developing a sustainable business model for funding conservation programs is critical for the long-term commitments required to support field conservation projects. Examples of the One Plan Approach of connecting every animal exhibit to the wild are cited, as well as how active conservation participation enhances the brand and image of a zoo and aquarium. The chapter concludes with a proactive strategy to “walk the talk” by having zoos and aquariums become conservation powerhouses in the fight against extinction and environmental degradation.
CHAPTER 9. Shelly Grow, Debborah Luke, and Jackie Ogden, “Saving Animals from Extinction (SAFE): Unifying the Conservation Approach of AZA-Accredited Zoos and Aquariums”
The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and its members envision a world where, as a result of the work of accredited zoos and aquariums, all people respect, value, and conserve wildlife and wild places. AZA and individual members have a history of dedicating themselves to this vision independently by organization or in small groups. This commitment has resulted in considerable resources for conservation around the world, as well as real conservation successes. However, the diffuse nature of this work has hindered the impact and public awareness about the accomplishments. In 2014, AZA SAFE: Saving Animals From Extinction was developed to elevate the conservation capacity and reach of the AZA community and achieve clear conservation outcomes. SAFE is intended to engage zoos and aquariums collaboratively with other conservationists to save species; to integrate the wide-ranging expertise of AZA members in wild animal management, care, research, and conservation directly into efforts being made to save a species; and to incorporate the expertise of AZA members in awareness building and public engagement to leverage the power of 180 million annual visitors to help save species. This approach aims to help save vulnerable wildlife from extinction and protect it for future generations.
CHAPTER 10. Kathy Traylor-Holzer, Kristin Leus, and Onnie Byers, “Integrating Ex Situ Management Options as Part of a One Plan Approach to Species Conservation”
In-situ and ex-situ communities often develop their species conservation plans independently, which may result in ex-situ activities that are not structured appropriately for maximum conservation benefit. The One Plan Approach to species conservation promotes the joint development of management strategies and conservation actions for all populations of a species by all responsible parties to produce a single comprehensive conservation plan for the species. Ex-situ activities have the potential to address primary threats, buy time in emergency situations, offset population instability, and restore wild populations. New IUCN guidelines for ex-situ management outline an informed and transparent decision process that defines potential conservation roles and evaluates their feasibility, risks, and likelihood of success. This decision process is flexible and can be applied as a component of a single species conservation planning process as well as in a more general conservation needs assessment across multiple species. This approach leads to improved collection planning for zoos and provides additional tools for addressing both short-term and long-term threats to species in the wild. By including all stakeholders and evaluating all possible management options, the One Plan Approach ensures that all conservation resources are used to save a species from extinction.
CHAPTER 11. Kristen E. Lukas and Tara S. Stoinski, “Zoos and Gorilla Conservation: Have We Moved beyond a Piecemeal Approach?”
institutions accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) contributed to in situ conservation of gorillas from 1997 to 2005. The results revealed that nearly half of Gorilla Species Survival Plan zoos were not supporting gorilla conservation and the efforts of those that did so were largely short-term, sporadic, and unevenly distributed among institutions. Fully aware of the myriad challenges facing natural areas, good zoos and aquariums are making increasingly stronger commitments to wildlife conservation and becoming places where people can act and be part of the solution. Many mechanisms have arisen in the past few years to ensure that zoos and zoo visitors are connected to wildlife conservation, particularly for charismatic species such as gorillas. This chapter provides an overview of the Ape Taxon Advisory Group Conservation Initiative, evidence that individual zoos are now making long-term commitments to gorilla conservation programs, and a call to action for AZA zoos and aquariums to collectively become the world’s largest wildlife conservation organization. By leveraging combined scientific, financial, and advocacy resources zoos and aquariums can play a key role in redefining the future for wildlife.
CHAPTER 12. Margaret Spring, “Lessons from Thirty-One Years at the Monterey Bay Aquarium and Reflections on Aquariums’ Expanding Role in Conservation Action”
Growing human needs are straining the ocean’s living systems, imperiling the ocean’s ability to provide humanity with essential benefits and services. But aquariums are well positioned to lend their trusted voices to help turn the tide. Some are moving from informing people to mobilizing them, and a few, including the Monterey Bay Aquarium, are taking direct action to promote changes. This chapter discusses the ways in which the Monterey Bay Aquarium is pursuing its mission “to inspire conservation of the ocean”—including (and going beyond) its visitor programs, education initiatives, and scientific research. The aquarium’s Conservation and Science division is expanding, integrating its research with its growing influence in ocean policy and its work to reshape the global seafood supply chain. The organization’s ultimate goal is to build a constituency that will work to protect and restore the world’s life-sustaining aquatic ecosystems. With global ecosystems in decline, there is no time to lose. By understanding their audiences, aquariums can craft meaningful ways to speak to their interests and help them be part of sustainable solutions.
CHAPTER 13. Ruth A. Allard and Stuart A. Wells, “The Phoenix Zoo Story: Building a Legacy of Conservation”
Zoological parks can be great places to inspire wonder, stoke curiosity, connect with nature, gather with family, and have fun. In addition, modern, professionally managed zoos are conservation organizations, committed to securing a healthy future for the natural world. From its inception in 1962 the Phoenix Zoo has demonstrated its commitment to contributing to species recovery. Raising imperiled native species for release to the wild, surveying and monitoring field sites in collaboration with government agency partners, funding field projects worldwide, conducting research ex situ and in the field to add to understanding of species of conservation concern and improve husbandry techniques, and increasing public awareness regarding these efforts as well as the roles guests can play in supporting wildlife and wild places – this case study of the Phoenix Zoo provides an example of how modern zoos rise to the challenge and operate as true conservation organizations.
CHAPTER 14. Clare Palmer, T. J. Kasperbauer, and Peter Sandøe, “Bears or Butterflies? How Should Zoos Make Value-Driven Decisions about Their Collections?”
Zoos are ethically contested institutions, not only in terms of their existence, but also with respect to their aims, policies, and practices. Many of these aims, policies, and practices are underpinned by commitments to widely shared values. However, these values may be in tension, forcing choices to fulfill some aims at the expense of others, or requiring trade-offs between them. Such tensions are particularly salient with respect to species composition in zoo collections. This chapter discusses what should drive the mix of species kept in zoos, given the aims and values that zoological associations claim to endorse. The chapter first explores key aims endorsed by three major zoo associations. Then the values underlying these aims, including animal welfare and competing understandings of conservation, are discussed. The chapter considers why these values are important and the dilemmas and difficulties they pose for decision making about the composition of zoo collections. It is argued that, given their value commitments, zoos may do best to expand their collections of less space-intensive, local, threatened, and invertebrate populations, especially in cases where animals’ welfare needs are relatively easy to fulfill.
CHAPTER 15. Alejandro Grajal, Jerry F. Luebke, and Lisa-Anne DeGregoria Kelly, “Why Zoos Have Animals: Exploring the Complex Pathway from Experiencing Animals to Pro-Environmental Behaviors”
Modern zoos and aquariums are at a critical crossroads and confronted with two emerging, intertwined challenges. The first is a “cultural shift challenge” in which rapid worldwide urbanization, socioeconomic, and demographic changes lead to personal detachment from nature. The second is a “relevancy challenge” in which a digital media revolution is rapidly widening public access to information and changing perceptions about animal welfare. We present a hypothesized model of the zoo and aquarium experience in which engagement in pro-environmental behaviors is related to strong and complex relationships among visitors’ predispositions, animal experiences, affective connections, social exchanges, and the designed zoo setting. Based on recent findings along several lines of research, our model leads to recommendations for specific education strategies: 1. Improve visitor outreach and diversity; 2. Facilitate animal experiences and address animal welfare concerns; 3. Encourage visitors’ participation and engagement; and 4. Empower visitors to engage in pro-environmental behaviors. A focus on animal rights, while necessary, does not squarely address the ultimate ethical dilemma of how to engage humans in conservation action. As inspiring and accessible portals to nature, zoos and aquariums can be active players in advancing effective social change toward the relationship between humans and nature.
CHAPTER 16. Susan Clayton and Khoa D. Le Nguyen, “People in the Zoo: A Social Context for Conservation”
Zoos may be able to promote conservation by communicating the need for conservation to their visitors, and particularly by creating concern about the animals. Conversations among zoo visitors have the potential to highlight the value of nature and to promote affection and empathy for animals, along with a sense of connection. Psychological research suggests that concern for others, including animals, is higher when they are perceived as more similar to the perceiver. Zoos can, and do, utilize their exhibits to promote a sense of similarity and connection to animals among visitors. We present a study in which observers of a capuchin monkey exhibit were asked to consider either similarities or differences between the monkeys and humans. Those looking for similarities attended to different attributes of the monkeys, focusing on faces and on behavior, whereas those focused on difference emphasized physical characteristics. Compared to a control condition, both groups showed greater environmental concern; providing information about human implication in environmental threats, however, increased concern among the control group. We conclude that carefully designed zoo exhibits and signage may increase care and concern for animal conservation, but that determining the best combination of information to present is a complex task.
CHAPTER 17. Anne S. Clay, “From Sad Zoo to Happy Zoo: The Changing Animal Welfare and Conservation Priorities of the Seoul Zoo in South Korea”
This chapter analyzes the efforts of Seoul Grand Park Zoo — the largest and most important zoo on the Korean peninsula — to develop and achieve the highest standards in conservation, education, animal welfare, and research over the last three decades. Founded primarily as an entertainment venue in 1984, the zoo has struggled to become a scientific center that adequately provides for the animals under its care and promotes the advancement and dissemination of knowledge. Drawing on interviews of zoo officials, academics, conservationists, and animal-rights activists, the chapter explores the animal welfare management and conservation priorities of this prominent Asian institution. Although the zoo has made significant improvements in animal welfare, it remains constrained by limited resources and government indifference. These constraints have restricted the zoo’s ambition to become a major center for conservation; it currently concentrates on only a handful of projects with broad popular appeal. Greater collaboration, better communication with other researchers, and more systematic sharing of data would be especially beneficial for expanding the zoo’s conservation agenda. As research and conservation become more prominent parts of the zoo’s portfolio, however, potential conflicts may arise with the zoo’s emphasis on the welfare of individual animals under its care.
CHAPTER 18. Terry L. Maple and Valerie D. Segura, “Wildlife Wellness: A New Ethical Frontier for Zoos and Aquariums”
Zoo Atlanta emerged from an institutional crisis in 1984 when city, county business, and government leaders united to transform the former municipal zoo into a public-private partnership (privatization) operated by a non-profit board of directors. The operating reforms enabled zoo management to elevate the standards and practices of the zoo and recruit highly qualified personnel. Early experiments to reach the goal of optimal animal welfare positioned the zoo as a leader among its peers. Zoo Atlanta’s leadership culminated in a unique conference where zoo leaders and critics faced off to debate the future of zoo ethics. The book Ethics on the Ark was the product of this meeting. Better practices and higher standards are still evolving with the construct of “wellness” emerging as a new approach to superior management of wildlife living in human care. The best zoos and aquariums practice evidence-based (empirical) problem-solving to benefit the zoo and aquarium population. This approach ensures that animals no longer suffer in zoos and aquariums. Further, the highest ethical operating standards move beyond coping to encourage thriving for each and animal species in our care.
CHAPTER 19. Bryan G. Norton, “Zoos and Sustainability: Can Zoos Go Beyond Ethical Individualism to Protect Resilient Systems?”
Since the 1990s, there has been a lively discussion of the nature and contribution of zoos to conservation, today and in the future. Zoos–originally, menageries–have evolved to have four main foci: entertainment, research, conservation and education. While some larger zoos have established strong contributing relationships with in-situ efforts to save some of the species they exhibit and breed, the core of zoos’ contribution to conservation efforts must be educative. Zoos and aquariums have a major advantage in reaching the public: zoo clientele represents a cross-section of society and offers many opportunities to educate previously oblivious persons and create supporters of conservation. Current discussions raise ethical problems with both exhibiting and breeding captive animals, but it is noted that, following most discussion of human ethics, applications of ethics to animals has been mainly individualistic in nature. So, while zoos provide excellent opportunities to educate the public about individual animals, they face a challenge: can education regarding individual animals and their well-being support growing ethical concerns about maintaining healthy ecosystems? Zoos will be able to contribute to broader conservation goals if they integrate their ethics and their education into the broader search for a sustainability ethic.
CHAPTER 20. Oliver A. Ryder, “Opportunities and Challenges for Conserving Small Populations: An Emerging Role for Zoos in Genetic Rescue”
The growing commitment of zoos to address accelerated rates of extinction and losses of biodiversity utilizing the populations they manage has led to the exploration of options to rescue species from extinction, including advanced genetic and reproductive technologies. The availability of banked viable cell cultures, such as those held in collections like San Diego Zoo Global’s Frozen Zoo® and other facilities, may ultimately provide resources to reduce extinction risk of species for which appropriate samples have been collected. This resource may provide options for genetic rescue, restoration of lost genetic variation to contribute to population sustainability, and for some species, may be the only means of preventing their extinction. In an era of declining biodiversity and expanding scientific capabilities, a new relationship with nature stands to emerge. Genetic techniques such as whole genome sequencing and genetic engineering, and alliances of these technologies with advances in cell and developmental biology, especially stem cell biology, now portend a new form of husbandry that may enrich and sustain some species. It is timely to evaluate and apply advances in animal biosciences to endangered species conservation in the fight against extinction.
CHAPTER 21. Carrie Friese, “Cloning in the Zoo: When Zoos Become Parents”
This chapter re-examines debates over the use of cloning to preserve endangered animals in zoos, which is supplemented by an analysis of the debates regarding de-extinction. Where previous research has used nature and culture as a lens for parsing the debates over cloning, reproduction is here used as an alternative analytic lens. Different ideas about reproduction are argued to be central to debates over whether or not techniques like cloning should be used as part of ex- situ preservation, or in species resurrection projects more broadly. These debates reference two different logics of reproduction, one that links reproduction with sameness and the other that links reproduction with history and change. The differing notions of reproduction detected in debates over cloning endangered species and its extension into de-extinction are also seen in more general discourses; these different logics of reproduction are for example also present in social theory. In addition, these different notions of reproduction appear to be interlinked with people’s positions regarding if and how biotechnologies can be used to reproduce and/or regenerate species; those who link reproduction with sameness are generally more enthusiastic about technological interventions where those who link reproduction with history and change having more reservations.
CHAPTER 22. Christopher W. Tubbs, “Advancing Laboratory-Based Zoo Research to Enhance Captive Breeding of Southern White Rhinoceros”
The captive southern white rhinoceros (SWR) is not currently self-sustaining because of low fertility of captive-born females. The cause of this phenomenon is believed to be high dietary levels of phytoestrogens; endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) produced by plants that can mimic the reproductive hormone estrogen. Typically, investigating the effects of EDCs on reproduction utilizes invasive methods, such as treatment of animals with potentially harmful chemicals. However, such approaches are not feasible for a species like the SWR. In this chapter the application of novel research to study the molecular mechanisms by which phytoestrogens affect SWR reproduction is reviewed. In addition, recent evidence that changing from high to low phytoestrogen diets may improve SWR fertility is presented. Taken together, the information presented here demonstrates an emerging opportunity to apply laboratory-based research to the ex-situ conservation of threatened or endangered species.
CHAPTER 23. Charles R. Knapp, “Beyond the Walls: Applied Field Research for the Twenty-First-Century Public Aquarium and Zoo”
As zoological organizations evolve in the twenty-first century to address the biodiversity extinction crisis as well as proactively demonstrate relevance in a changing public opinion landscape, their conservation portfolios are expanding. An increasingly popular approach among zoological organizations for addressing these issues more directly is the support of in-situ conservation research teams designed to detect, diagnose, and halt population declines in the wild. The distinct nature of zoological organizations relative to academic institutions and traditional environmental nonprofits, however, presents opportunities and challenges that must be considered when developing conservation research platforms. Using as a case study the relatively recent development and expansion of an in-situ research department at Shedd Aquarium, this chapter discusses the evolution of strategic planning including program selection criteria, evaluation methods, staffing considerations, and organizational adaption. If managed correctly, incorporating in-situ research into the many conservation opportunities afforded to aquariums and zoos is another mechanism for ensuring that the counterparts of the species in their collections remain safe in the wild while demonstrating the relevance of such organizations for contributing to scientific research and protecting biodiversity.
CHAPTER 24. Joseph R. Mendelson III, “Frogs in Glass Boxes: Responses of Zoos to Global Amphibian Extinctions”
As modern zoos were evolving to substantiate their claims to be leading conservation organizations in the late twentieth century, amphibians were succumbing to conservation challenges of unimaginable proportions. A previously unknown pathogenic fungus was moving among continents and, in some cases, eradicating populations and species virtually instantly. This phenomenon went mostly unnoticed until about 1990, when scientists and conservationists scrambled for answers, or even the relevant questions, and suitable responses. Amphibians have never been prominent in zoo programs or exhibits, so the coincidental timing of the upswing of conservation rhetoric from zoos and what was acknowledged as the most drastic large-scale animal conservation crisis in history created a maelstrom of confusion and controversy. Being understandably unprepared for a conservation challenge of unprecedented proportions, the response of zoos ranged from unfulfilled promises to valiant, if unsuccessful, efforts to establishment of successful programs. More broadly, the disease-driven declines of amphibians is a case-study for zoos and conservationists to consider in face of the ever increasing reports of devastating emerging infectious diseases as direct-drivers of extinction in wildlife. It is clear to no one, including zoos, what are the best responses to these situations.
CHAPTER 25. Steven L. Monfort and Catherine A. Christen, “Sustaining Wildlife Populations in Human Care: An Existential Value Proposition for Zoos”
This chapter opens with a historical review of choices made by late twentieth-century accredited zoos impelled by the mounting biodiversity crisis, to take as their existential value proposition responsibility for sustaining the wildlife populations in their care. It then posits that today’s zoos are themselves unsustainable, providing exemplary animal care and management yet failing to approach any species sustainability benchmarks, an industry at risk of losing control of its supply chain and product pipeline. To survive long-term as enterprises and conservation centers, zoos must embrace the superficially jarring concordance between their business need for steady supplies of the animals that yield attendance and revenue and their ethical imperative to ensure long-term genetic and demographic sustainability of managed populations of critically endangered wildlife species. Transformative steps for galvanizing the industry to lasting sustainability gains in situ and ex situ include: massive capital investment in producing and deploying new zoo science knowledge and applied management expertise; large-scale building of improved facilities and flexible sustainability space; and unremitting collaboration with other conservation institutions and specialties. Failure to act will drive public disaffection toward zoos. Embracing concerted action affords the zoo industry unprecedented opportunity to inhabit a unique, invaluable conservation niche.
CHAPTER 26. Craig Ivanyi and Debra Colodner, “Reflections on Zoos and Aquariums and the Role of the Regional Biopark”
As an organized movement, concern for animal rights and welfare dates back to the nineteenth century. According to several recent articles, the focus of this movement is increasingly turning toward zoos and aquariums. Today’s progressive zoos dedicate considerable resources to conservation research, education and action in order to validate their animal collections. Zoos also study the conservation knowledge, attitudes and behaviors gained by their visitors in order to continually enhance their impact. Most of this research has occurred in zoos with global collections of animals. There is reason to believe that conservation science and education outcomes may differ between globally-focused zoos, and those with regionally-focused collections. This chapter explores features of regional institutions that may enhance their effectiveness as conservation organizations. It uses the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, one of the best-known regional bioparks, as a case study. Although regional and global collections have value, regional organizations may have advantages in both the reality and the perception of their conservation missions. Moreover, traditional zoos might extend their reach by establishing partnerships with regional or local conservation organizations.
CHAPTER 27. Stefan Linquist, “Today’s Awe-Inspiring Design, Tomorrow’s Plexiglas Dinosaur: How Public Aquariums Contradict Their Conservation Mandate in Pursuit of Immersive Underwater Displays”
Aquarium designers strive, on the one hand, to provide visitors with an immersive underwater experience that simulates an authentic wilderness encounter. On the other hand, most aquariums also express a commitment to conservation, in their mission statements and branding. This chapter argues that the two goals are incompatible. The pursuit of “total immersion” inspires the construction of increasingly massive displays that quickly seem outdated in the face of technological advances. In an effort to recapture public imagination, and in response to waning attendance, aquarium managers often find it necessary to renovate or expand their facilities and collections. Meanwhile, these growing Plexiglas dinosaurs continue to increase their rates of CO2 emission and other ecological impacts. Conveniently, such real-world effects of aquarium expansion are mostly hidden from public view, thanks to disguised life support systems, concealed collecting efforts, and dramatized feeding schedules—all in the service of an immersive visitor experience. In contrast to this model, we are beginning to see the rise of small-scale regional aquariums that make no pretense at immersion. These institutions convey a more genuine conservation message by incorporating life support systems into the displays and, in some cases, returning specimens to the wild.
CHAPTER 28. Adrián Cerezo and Kelly E. Kapsar, “Zoo Conservation Disembarks: Stepping off the Ark and into Global Sustainable Development”
This chapter proposes that the most promising way to achieve long-term success in biodiversity conservation is to interweave the unique capacities and perspectives of zoos and aquariums with the overarching agenda of sustainable development, as defined by the Sustainable Development Goals (also known as the United Nations’ Agenda 2030). Instead of isolated “arks” in a flooded planet, zoos are participants in a diverse, global network of actors and institutions striving toward a healthier and more harmonious relationship among humans and with other elements of the natural world. The chapter is organized in three sections: first, we explore the history and key concepts of sustainable development and discuss current efforts to move this agenda forward; second, we consider the knowledge, skills and resources that zoo-based conservation programs can contribute to global sustainable development, while giving attention to the historical obstacles that have limited zoo participation in this larger process; and finally, we examine how this shift in paradigm and practices is not just fundamental for the future of biodiversity conservation, but can increase the value of zoos as venues for family entertainment and strengthen their impact as informal educational institutions.
CHAPTER 29. Harry W. Greene, “Rewilding the Lifeboats”
This chapter defines wildness in terms of ecological and evolutionary processes, rather than minimal human presence, and then asks three questions: To what extent do politics and culture constrain zoo design and management? Might the answer be “too much,” and could zoos better achieve their important core goals through greater attention to natural processes, including those that entail mortality? And, are there acceptable ways in which zoos, as de facto lifeboats, might “rewild” themselves, with attendant advantages in terms of animal welfare, conservation, education, and nature appreciation? Here these issues are explored through considerations of the natural history and captive display of rattlesnakes, the controversial death of a Danish zoo giraffe, and the manner in which giant lizards and vultures are exhibited and perceived by zoo visitors.
CHAPTER 30. Ben A. Minteer, “The Parallax Zoo”
The relationship between zoos and the wild is complex and often contradictory. The controlled and curated character of their existence means that zoo animals are not fully “wild,” at least compared to their counterparts in nature. Emerging trends in zoo design emphasizing greater exhibit naturalism, however, have reduced (at least aesthetically) some of the distance between the zoo and the wild. This chapter reflects on the search for wildness and naturalism in zoological parks by examining the plan for “Zootopia,” an expansion of Denmark’s Givskud Zoo. Zootopia’s innovative “cage-free” design promises to minimize the separation between people and zoo animals, offering a heightened sense of environmental immersion and wildness in the contrived setting of a zoological park. Yet as zoos seek to become significantly more naturalistic and more park-like they will confront a number of thorny questions, including whether the attempt to get closer to wild conditions only underscores the biological and philosophical gulf between zoos and “real” nature. Past examples of failed attempts to meld the wild and the zoo, such as the largely forgotten animal menagerie at Yosemite National Park in the early twentieth century, remind us of the difficulty of this challenge.