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Monday, May 14, 2018

Documentary Review: 60 Minutes - Matchmaking for zoo animals

This weekend, 60 Minutes aired a special on population management in zoos and aquariums.  When I first heard about it, it was with a sense of dread.  I'd heard that it was going to feature, among other things, an emphasis on the culling practices in European facilities, such as the infamous episode of Marius the giraffe.  With that in mind, I was bracing myself for something tawdry and sensationalist.

I was pleasantly surprised.

Yes, the topic of population management culling was addressed, but in a thoughtful manner that provoked conversation, not shrill screaming.

Correspondent Lesley Stahl with Ron Kagan of the Detroit Zoo, CBS

For the most part, however, it was an excellent introduction to the concept of Species Survival Plans, conservation breeding programs, and population management.  It shows that there is so much more to the breeding programs than producing cute babies for visitors to ooh and aah over.  The show's producers to a fair job of explaining everything that goes into sustainable population planning - demographics, genetics, and plain old attraction between the animals involved.

Population management is a complicated subject.  The best storytellers have a knack for taking a complicated subject and reshaping it in such a manner that an audience finds it easy to understand, compelling to follow.  Genetics and demographics can be hard to relate to - after all, it's not how we pick our mates - but everyone understands  I plan on using this program to help educate new staff members about SSPs and cooperative breeding programs.  I would recommend that zoos share it to their websites to help better explain the issue to their visitors.

Watch the entire program by clicking the link at the heading of this page.  I hope you enjoy!

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