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Essay/Term paper: America's zoos: entertainment to conservation

Essay, term paper, research paper:  Science Research Papers

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America's Zoos: Entertainment to Conservation

The children run ahead, squealing with delight. Their parents lag
behind holding the children's brightly colored balloons and carrying the
remnants of the half-eaten cotton candy. The family stops to let the children
ride the minitrain and take pictures together under the tree. They walk hand-
in-hand toward the exit, stopping first at the gift shop where they each splurge
on a treat to remind them of the day's adventure. Although this may sound like
a typical scene from the local amusement park, it's actually the city zoo. All
that forgotten was walking from cage to cage watching the anxious animals pace
back and forth in their closed-in prisons (Hope, 1994). Their cages feel cold
and desolate. The concrete floor provides no warmth and the atmosphere is
sterile. The animals do not appear very happy in this closed-in environment.
Just who are these anxious animals? They are the common everyday animals any
child could name: the bears, the tigers, the elephants and the monkeys. What
about the rest of the world's unique creatures? Hundreds of species are
endanger of becoming extinct, and conservation is in need. Extinction is a
permanent issue. The treatment of all our animals and their rights is important
as well. As concern for the world's animals becomes more prominent in the news,
our zoos rise up to meet the challenge. Animal's rights and their treatment,
regardless of species, have been brought to attention and positive movements
made. While the number of endangered species grows, zoos attempt to do their
part in conservation. Both in and out of the park, zoos and their scientist do
their best to help these species. Efforts out in the field within the United
States as well as other countries are currently in progress. The question lies
in the worthiness of these efforts. Is the conservation successful? Are these
efforts being done for the right reasons? Will zoos remain as a form of family
entertainment or will the enjoyment of the patrons become unimportant? While it
is obvious that things are changing, the eventual goals might not be so clear.
As the concern shifts from entertainment to conservation, the zoo's efforts are
examined, both in the park and beyond, and their motives judged.
As cities became more and more urbanized, it was harder to still have
first-hand contact with nature. Time schedules were busier and no one could
really afford to spend an entire day to drive out to the countryside. City zoos
took over that connection to nature, especially for the cityfolks. Afternoon
visits to the zoo became a fun form of family entertainment (Arrandale, 1990).
Even though the bars separated the two worlds, it allowed the people to see the
animals. When this interaction began to take place, people examined these
institutions for their concern for the animals. The intentions were obvious, to
provide the public with the ability to be around these creatures, but were their
methods ethical? Animals were displayed for the general public's enjoyment
(Diamond, 1995). As one critically judges the physical environment of these
animals they can personally decide whether ethics were compromised. Some argued
that the zoos provided a safe home and regular meals for the animals, and for
this they should be happy. On the flip side, these creatures were caged and
unable to thrive in the wild (Burke, 1990). Under observation, zoos are examined
for the humanity with which they treat the animals. Animal welfare has become a
concern within our country. This group is not to be confused with the animal
rights movement. Without the use of violence, one of the animal welfare
movement's goals is to improve the way these institutions, like the city zoos,
provide for these animals (Burke, 1990). Honoring the conservation efforts,
they simply want to make sure the animals are cared for with the highest levels
of concern, both physically and nutriently (Diamond, 1995). Human rights are
established in the written form of laws, and these activists speak on behalf of
the animal's rights (Burke, 1990). While some views, like fighting for the
equality of animals and humans, might seem extreme, no one can argue that the
animal's rights need to remain an important issue when providing care at the
zoos (Burke, 1990).
The days of a zoo simply providing a recreational place for a family to
spend their afternoon together are over. The purpose of zoos has changed
considerably since their formation. The switch from pure entertainment to
education and conservation is a direct result of the growing number of
endangered species. Programs are now continually being implemented to try to
rebuild the numbers of diminishing species. Careful captive breeding is turning
the city zoos into conservations and wildlife institutions (Hope, 1994). Zoos
are the places many of these species are beginning to call home (Stevens, 1993).
Home is becoming more and more comfortable. Concrete floors have disappeared,
as well as the steel black bars. They are replaced with a more natural
environment. Trying to simulate their old habitats, trees and landscape now
encompass the exhibits (Arrandale, 1990). Barely visible moats or unbreakable
glass barriers is all that separates the visitors from the animals. For infants
born within the zoo, these environments help prepare them for the real world
should they ever be released. Animals are no longer inmates in the prison of
zoos. Not only has the appearance changed, zoos have also added some unique
members to their list of residents. The bears, tigers, elephants and monkeys
can still be found, but so can more unusual animals. Many endangered species
need what these zoos and their scientists can do for them. Providing a stable
environment first, the scientists can then try to reestablish their numbers
(Diamond, 1995). Measures are taken when there is still enough reproductive
animals to strengthen the species. The earlier the captive breeding programs
start, the more successful they will be. Without sufficient numbers,
inbreeding may occur which will eventually lead to more problems. So these
programs are very important in the efforts to try to save these special species.
One of the biggest benefits of captive breeding is that the general public gets
the privilege of observing these species first-hand (Diamond, 1995). Perhaps
one of the most important changes the zoos have made is their purpose. Rather
than just providing entertainment, the goal is education through enjoyment.
Teaching the public about these animals and their habitats can be extremely
crucial in keeping these species afloat (Stevens, 1993). Zoos are making great
strides in the education, showing people the creatures and the environments they
might have indirectly helped in the destruction of (Arrandale, 1990). With
this newfound knowledge, zoos hope the visitors will be still have the
enjoyment, but will also be more informed about the world.
As the people walk through the exit gates of the zoos, they probably
will not realize how much of the zoos efforts they will not see. So much goes
on behind the scenes, unaware to the general public. Hopefully they are now
educated about the endangered species being breed in captivity on the premises.
The ultimate goal of this breeding is to strengthen the numbers of these animals,
not only in zoos but in the wild as well. The species need to be placed back
into their wild habitats as soon as the numbers becomes more stable. The
reintroduction involves a slow adjustment period while they animals, many of
which are born in these breeding institutes, adapt to their new surroundings.
After they are released, scientists continue to subtly watch over these animals,
while anticipating instinctual reproduction in the wild. Observations continue,
data is collected and more breeding is planned. Studies are done to examine new
species who also be diminishing in numbers. Their environment and climate must
be studied in order to learn enough the surroundings in which they inhabit
(Arrandale, 1990). This information will help scientists plan a conservation
strategy to insure these species do not become endangered. Field study is truly
the first step in keeping these endangered species thriving healthy on Earth.
This field work is not limited to strictly examining species within the United
States. Much work is being done between our nation's zoos and other countries.
One particular scientist is from the Bronx Zoo in New York, George Schaller
(Stevens, 1993). The Bronx Zoo/ Wildlife Conservation Park, as it is now called,
holds a prestigious title as a very effective conservation for endangered
species (Hope, 1994). Dr. Schaller has helped the Chinese government reserve a
100,00-square-mile area in a region of Tibet for the sake of the country's
treasured, but endangered, pandas (Stevens, 1993). In a completely opposite
part of the world, a seven nation effort is in effect to recreate the natural
migration route of cougars from Belize to Panama (Stevens, 1993). This is
just a small sampling of one zoo scientist's efforts to help save endangered
species out in the field. When the number of zoo scientists who do conservation
field work from all the different parks is considered, the work of zoos reaches
far beyond the gates.
A family spends a late Saturday afternoon together, laughing and walking
through the city zoo. The cotton candy and balloons remain, but the fun does
not stop there. The monkeys live in the new "Rain Forest" exhibit, which is
next to "Feline Mountain" where the tigers run free. The habitats teach the
children about where these animals really live in the wild (Arrandale, 1990).
The koala bears, which were endangered, are separated from the visitors by a
stream and a gate fence. The family learns a lot about the endangered species
being breed, and even about how they can help in trying to save these animals.
The fun was still there, and the family got to truly witness nature's creatures
first-hand. Simply because it's become more of an educational tool, the
entertainment remains. The children still squeal with delight and the afternoon
is considered a success by all. Now, the goal of zoos reaches beyond the
education factor. Although enjoyment is still a concern, education of the
public and conservation of endangered species have become more prominent issues
within the zoos. On the park's premises, complicated studies are taking place
to preserve these species. The habitats are more like "home" and therefore more
comfortable for the animals. Captive breeding is the product of careful
planning to produce a strong new generation. Visitors are allowed to see these
unique creatures, which is perhaps one of the most important parts of the
changing roles. By witnessing first-hand how critical the survival of these
species are, the patrons may realize how even they personally can help to their
preservation. The interaction between animals and visitors relates the reality
of nature to the public. Reaching one step farther, the scientists then move
out into the real world. The captive breed animals must be reintroduced to the
wild. Scientists keep in contact in order to make sure the species stays
strong., while simultaneously looking for more species that may need their help.
United States zoo scientists travel to the ends of the Earth if there is a
species in need. Work is currently being done in combination with other
countries to prevent these animals from becoming extinct and allowing them to
lead natural lives. As the concern shifts from entertainment to conservation,
the zoo's efforts are examined, both in the park and beyond, and their motives
judged. In my opinion, the intent of zoos has completely changed since their
formation. Animals are no longer just prisoners in concrete cages for the
public's enjoyment. They are respected and considered treasured individuals.
Personally, I fondly remember visiting the zoo as a child. Although, the parts
I seem to remember most are the stops at the gift shop and the strange odor that
lurked around some of the cages. Growing up in the city, this was pretty much
my only chance to have contact with wildlife, limited as it was. Now, going
back to visit these "old" zoos with new names and faces, I am able to gain so
much more knowledge. Standing alone as one individual, I learn the natural
habitats of these animals, how close some are to extinction, efforts happening
in other countries and how I can personally help. If I am able to come to all
of these realizations on my own, imagine how much more knowledgeable the public
will be as a whole on these matters. Both education and species conservation
are gained. Honestly, many members of the human population may not realize what
life is truly like out in the wild. Nature has been difficult for many animals
and these scientists are trying to rebuild what Mother Nature, in combination
with the human race, has almost destroyed. The role has shifted, but I believe
that the motives have also changed considerably. The concern of the patrons
will always be a factor, but with so many people worried about the animals, they
are not forgotten. Perhaps if the general public, meaning those who do not have
the privilege of visiting these zoos becomes more informed about the work, less
questions will be raised about this transition. Personally, I cannot
differentiate the one who suffers in this arrangement. The animals' rights are
looked after, the public becomes more aware and the endangered numbers of many
species are strengthened. If the children still squeal, the animals are safe
and measures are being taken to help Earth's creatures, I would consider the
venture successful and applaud it as well.


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