Article — From the June 2012 issue

Wild things

Animal nature, human racism, and the future of zoos

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  • Gerald Dick

    In « Wild Things- Animal nature, human
    racism and the future of zoos », David Samuels describes vividly the early
    days of the Bronx zoo, touches upon a dark and racist era but fails to
    understand the educational and conservation mission and significance of zoos.
    During the jubilee year of its 77th anniversary, WAZA – the World
    Association of Zoos and Aquariums, has put together the history and development
    of the global zoo community in a nice commemorative volume, illustrating the
    evolution and also the future developments of the zoo community. It is clearly
    documented that zoos reflect society and the spirit of the respective time and
    therefore have changed over time a lot. Whereas visitor experience is an
    important aspect of the work of zoos, reducing animals to props is a fatal
    misconception. Understanding animals, their behavior and interactions is not
    just fun but the educational basis to establish respect of the living creature
    and trigger action for their conservation. I believe the mayor, Mr. Bloomberg
    seems to have understood very well, when he talked about zoo animals and the
    amazing work of the Wildlife Conservation Society, which runs the Bronx zoo.
    Globally, the zoo community invests $ 350 million in conservation work annually
    and reaches out to about 700 million people. There are numerous success stories
    of species survivals and rescues where zoos played a major or even crucial
    role. The Californian Condor for instance will be widely known as a flagship
    example of zoo’s conservation successes in the United States and beyond. The
    future of zoos as modern conservation institutions will place them even more
    amongst the most important educational facilities and as essential partners in
    the endeavor to stop the loss of biodiversity. Regretfully, those aspects were
    missing in the nice to read article.

    Gerald Dick, PhD

    CEO, World Association of Zoos and Aquariums



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