Zoos Face a Crisis of Conscience
This article considers whether zoos can adapt to a new role focused on conservation and education rather than just entertainment. Facing mounting criticism based on ethics and welfare concerns, wildlife attractions have come up with two main justifications for their existence: firstly, their “mission to educate children and adults about important issues, like biodiversity and conservation challenges,” and a second moral argument based “on the welfare [and survival] of the animal species concerned” (not the individual animals kept in captivity).
In this piece, published in the journal Current Biology, research around the practical actions of captive facilities is explored and reference is made to various recent studies into the impacts of zoos. Some useful suggestions are made for further research, and there is brief analysis as to whether “captive animals can serve as ambassadors to motivate people to help saving their conspecifics in the wild.” In summary the author states: “Nobody would want the zoos and aquariums to become repositories of numerous species labelled ‘extinct in the wild’. So the challenge for all these institutions is to find their role in helping the animals that are still wild and free.”