Monday, February 22, 2010

Wild Species: Zoos

We all love Zoos and aquariums. So many exotic animals and all in safe in an enclosed habitat with their own preserved area. This may be fine for some animals but this poses a problem for most.

Before I get into that here are the main reasons for Zoos and Aquariums:
1. Breeding
Species at risk are bred for future release into wild
Reproductive physiologists research the best conditions for breeding animals, by analyzing hormones, for example
2. Research

All kinds of research projects, from examining animal behaviour to their genetic diversity
3. Population Management

Zoo staff keep animal and plant collections healthy
4. Habitat protection and restoration
Projects, such as stream clean ups, protect or repair vital habitats
5. Population management
Managing animals and plants in the wild involves activities such as nesting surveys

Essentially zoos are a hybrid of reaserch meets tourism and a means of educating scietist and biologists as well as the public. Manitoba has n umerous educational programs such as camps, classes and guided tours.

Now we come to the issues. For this part of my post I will use the two example from class.

Black bears once numbered 2 million in N. America (before human interaction). After man came along they declined to 200,000 and have since recovered to 800,000. They can run 55km/h, swim and climb. 2 bears require 10 square kilometers territory to live in. Now look at the size of the enclosure at the Winnipeg Zoo. My teacher to a cellphone camera video of a black bear and it revealed a lot about how life in the zoo may be affecting it.

In the video all the bear did was pace back and forth along the edge of the enclosure and grunt a lot. Nothing else. It seemed bored almost, until the "albino" black bear came in. It growled at the first black bear and chased it off into a corner of the enclosure. Not a pair of happy camper to say the least.

This is a major problem with animals in captivity in that they do not have the area they need to move around and sharing a small enclosure with another animal can lead to negative interactions. Elephants are an example of how captivity is not so hot for some animals. Elephants in captivity live only 16.9 years vs. 56 years in the wild. This is due to obesity and infections and poor parenting is also suspect. The problem is that even though zoos try to replicate an animals environment and wish to protect animals (which is a noble cause that should continue) they cannot truly meet the needs for all the animals they house.

What zoos need to do is house fewer animals per institute to allow for more room for the nimals to spread out in. If need be open a second zoo up to handle other animals and alow them space to live and grow in as well. Zoos and aquariums are an excellent means to educating everone about biodiversity in the world, we just need to ensure that the animals we are studying and enjoying can enjoy themselves to

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