Almost everyone loves a trip to the zoo, especially children. I suppose there is something mesmerizing in seeing a ferocious animal up-close. However, did you ever stop to wonder how important a zoo is? In fact, why do they exist in the first place?
People kept animals in captivity for centuries, yet modern zoos as we know them became popular only in the 18thcentury. Although it might seem cruel to keep a wild animal in captivity for a period or during its whole life, most animals are treated with respect and all their needs are attended. Also, zoos are frequently inspected by governmental institutions and they are subjected to specific regulations.
The main areas of focus
Conservation is a major focus area in a zoo, especially for species that are threatened or at risk of extinction. By keeping members of an endangered species in captivity, zoos create a population reservoir and, with the help of breeding programs, wild populations can be augmented with the introduction of animals bred in captivity. Early this year, two Iberian lynxwere released into the wild in Alentejo, south Portugal, so the local population could integrate new members, adding some genetic diversity to this threatened wild feline population.
Without these programs, wild populations of endangered species around the world would have fewer individuals. With wildlife treats increasing every day, these programs are extremely necessary. New species can be put at danger every day and, worst of all, some species don’t exist in the wild anymore, only in captivity.
Education is another focus area of a zoo, through raising awareness of animal diversity located in different points of the globe. Not everyone has the chance to travel to a specific country to see its native animals. Seeing these animals live and in colour can really put things in perspective, spike public interest on these topics, and possibly even gain public appreciation towards wildlife conservation.
Lastly, the scientific research that takes place in zoos is fundamental to obtain knowledge about animal behaviour, nutrition requirements, and reproduction cycles. This way, the staff can handle the animals properly, both in captivity and in the wild. Also, these scientific researches can give precious information about wildlife conservation.
If you want to know more…
… you can always visit your nearest zoo and talk to the staff. And if you get a chance to visit Lisbon Zoo, check out our latest work – an activity book for children, with plenty of illustrations and activities for kids to learn while playing. Search in the Zoovenir store for the activity book Wildlife Conservation. I am sure this book will make a lovely gift for your kids at home, or for any other children that are part of your life. Wildlife conservation and education must go hand in hand to preserve biodiversity.