You talk to zoo or aquarium visitors about deforestation and habitat loss, they pound the table and agree with you. You talk to them about over-hunting or poaching and they swell up with righteous indignation. You talk to them about invasive species, they nod their heads sagely. You talk to them about climate change... and expect at least one person in the crowd to start lobbing rotten produce at you.
Global climate change is one of, if not the, leading threat to many species today. And not just polar bears and other Arctic dwellers. Changes in weather patterns can turn grasslands into deserts. The ratcheting up in temperature is disastrous for heat-sensitive amphibians. And rising ocean temperatures (even slight ones) can prove lethal for coral, to say nothing of the species that live in coral reefs. That doesn't change the fact that among the US public (including zoo and aquarium visitors), the very concept of climate change, or global warming, is still controversial. It isn't surprising that many curators and directors, fearful of incurring the wrath of the public, shy away from it and aim their metaphorical guns at less-politically-connected bad guys, like rhino poachers.
So hats off to the South Carolina Aquarium for being willing to tackle the great environmental issue of our day. Zoos and aquariums are meant to educate, to inspire, and to conserve, and sometimes that means to advocate as well. Sometimes that means sharing a message that may turn some people off. The truth, however, should never be ignored just because it happens to be a tad inconvenient.
The South Carolina Aquarium wants to expand its research about the seas to include climate change. File/Staff