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Monday, June 27, 2016

Editorial: Lions and Tigers Don’t Belong in Zoos. But Some Animals Do.

This editorial (posted on Slate, by Matt Soniak) was interesting enough in that it actually tried to do something that very few people do in zoo controversies - find sensible middle ground.  It recognizes that yes, there are essential reasons for keeping zoos and aquariums around, and yes, some species do depend on them for their very survival.  I found some of the ideas in it a bit quixotic, however, and talking about "freeing" gorillas and tigers just strikes me as idiotic (no one seriously suggests "freeing" such animals, they talk of phasing them out through managed cessation of breeding).

Mostly, I enjoyed the comments, however, which is something I rarely do in online articles.  Instead of the typical "I saw a tiger and it made me sad" rubbish, people were actually weighing options for helping sustain the conservation efforts of smaller, more endangered species.  And all seem to have come to the same conclusion/

One reader put it best - "Could resources be better apportioned? Sure. But any plan whose real goal is making zoos go bankrupt because no one is going to pay to see a Sierra Nevada frog, is not only counter productive - it's dishonest and deceitful."

Shinda, a Western lowland gorilla, holds her newborn as they rest at the Prague Zoo in April - Michal Cizek/AFP/Getty Images

After a 4-year-old child accidentally fell into a gorilla enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo and forced the staff to euthanize an adult gorilla for the child’s protection in May, animal lovers rallied on behalf of Harambe, the gorilla, and against the practice of zoos in general. If the black-footed ferret had a Twitter account and a say in all this, I’m pretty sure it might have a different take. It is thanks to zoos’ efforts that the ferret survived at all. This success story offers a different alternative for what zoos could become. Rather than housing exotic animals that require habitat that far exceed what a zoo can reasonably offer, zoos should be converted into conservation centers equipped to help local struggling species find their footing again.

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