Zoos public (DEFRA, 2012). Last but not

Zoos have a profitable asset accessible to
them in their aim to ensure biodiversity, which are live animals (Helen Gray,
J., 2015).

The intrinsic fascination people feel for animals
attracts many guests to zoos yearly, which gives an impressive potential for
the visitors’ education and the possibility to bring conservation of
biodiversity issues to light (Zoos Victoria, 2015).

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Moreover, educating the public and taking knowledge
of the sustainability, biodiversity and conservation problems have been accepted
by EAZA (European Association of Zoos and Aquaria), WAZA (World Association
of Zoos and Aquariums),
and the CBD (The Convention on Biological Diversity), as well as all National
Zoo Associations (Rodríguez-Guerra, M., 2015).

In Great Britain, more specifically, The Zoo
Licensing Act 1981 (the Act) demonstrates the way in which British zoos are examined
and licensed. In order to preserve elevated principles of welfare and make sure
that every zoo found in the U.K. is harmless for the guests to visit, all the
requirements highlighted in the Zoo Licensing Act 1981 must be respected by
every zoo before being able to open to a general public (DEFRA, 2012).

Last but not least, The Zoo Licensing Act 198,
which was revised by the EU Zoos Directive, puts a necessity upon zoos to
commit to conservation (DEFRA, 2012).

In order to achieve this requirement, this
commitment can be translated in captive breeding, scientific research, and
should likewise incorporate awareness and public education (W.S. Challender, et
al., 2015)

 

 

1.     Conservation Methods

 

In recent decades, zoos dedicated themselves
to the conservation of biodiversity (Kasso, M. et al., 2013).

By breeding endangered species (ex-situ
conservation), by raising visitors’ awareness of the importance of
biodiversity, by supporting or initiating protection programs in the field
(in-situ conservation) and possibly by reintroducing certain species or
reinforcing their population; zoos now fully participating in global
conservation (OPA, “One Plan Approach”) with other conservation
stakeholders as IUCN for example (Frost, W., 2011).

The first method
type applied by zoos for conservation purposes is ex-situ conservation through
captive breeding (Frost, W., 2011). AZA takes part in Species Survival Plan
Programs (SSP Programs) which include field conservation,
public education, reintroduction and breeding programs in order to prevent the
most vulnerable and exposed species from extinction (AZA, 2011). The objective
of AZA conservation breeding programs is to prevent threatened species from
extinction thanks to controlled breeding of animals found in zoos (AZA, 2018).

Most
international breeding programs developed from the 1980s (Minteer, B., 2014).

They aim to maintain healthy captive populations, preserving their genetic
variability, not only for the purpose of reintroduction in the wild but also to
ensure the supply of different zoos while catches in the wild become
increasingly rare (Ghosh, S., 2004). As part of the breeding programs, animals
are traded between zoos without cash transfers (Zoological Society of London, ZSL).

These
programs are coordinated by the various regional zoo associations: for example,
the American Association of Zoological Parks and Aquaria (AAZP) coordinates
Species Survival Plans (SSP); the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria
(EAZA) coordinates the European Endangered Species Programmes (EEP) (World
Association of Zoos and Aquariums, WAZA). Each EEP concerns a species and is
managed by a coordinator, a member of the staff of a European zoo, who
centralises information on the species and manages exchanges between zoos as
well as the pairing of couples for breeding purposes (EAZA, 2018).

However, captive
breeding is sustainable as long as there is a wide genetic variation, and that
the breeding itself is controlled carefully (F.R. Snyder et al., 1996). In
fact, if there is a lack of genetic diversity because of the small size of the
population, then this could result into health problems that will be found in
the genetics of the species, a loss of genetic variability and genetic drift as
well as consanguinity (Furlan E., et al., 2011).

On another
note, reintroduction,
an in-situ method type, is defined by IUCN as “an attempt to establish a
species in an area which was once part of its historical range, but from which
it has been extirpated or become extinct” (IUCN, 1995). If the objectives of
reintroduction are clearly to improve the durable survival of a species, to
preserve and or/strengthen natural biodiversity, as well as emphasize conservation
awareness, there are however many difficulties predominating over such
operations (IUCN, 1995).

First of all, the concerned animals, which
were chosen for reintroduction following demographic and genetic criteria,
should be adapted or readapted to life in freedom through programs stimulating
their natural behaviour and placed, at first, in semi-captivity (U.S. Congress,
1987). It is also important that the biotope that hosts them is restored and
that the threats to the species, both direct, such as hunting, and indirect,
such as deforestation, have been eradicated (Ralls, K., et al., 2013).

Therefore, it seems necessary, before considering
any such operation, to carry out a feasibility study and to analyse carefully the
causes threatening the species or responsible for its disappearance and the
attitude of the local populations. Reintroductions are, as a consequence of all
of these parameters, difficult and expensive operations (Laidlaw, R., 2001).

 

 

2.     Education Methods

 

In addition
to conserving endangered species, education and public awareness have become
the essential tasks of a modern zoo (EAZA, 2008).

Zoological
parks have an educational role concerning the environment and the threats that
weigh on it (A Rees, P., 2011). This education is aimed at the general public,
by raising the awareness of visitors to the conservation of wildlife and the
environment of the planet, and to students, with the help of teachers (Gusset,
M., et al., 2014). Zoos are, in fact, irreplaceable places for a sensitive introduction
to animals and nature (Field and Dickie, 2007).

To ensure
this mission, the way animals are presented must not only satisfy their quality
of life but also be reminiscent of their living environment (Dr. Heather J. Bacon, n.d.).

For
instance, one of the first and most important requirements a zoo needs to
achieve in order to successfully educate the public, is to have a clear visibility
for the visitors to observe animals within their enclosure, as well as
informative panels (Couch, A.S., 2013).

In fact, if
visitors don’t have the possibility to clearly see live animals during their
trip to the zoo, or don’t have access to clear information, consequently they
will not feel the animals’ affective influence and possibly lose quickly
interest (Gwyne, A.J., 2007).

Moreover,
another important education-wise requirement in zoos is the availability of
pedagogic panels about the exhibited animals all around the zoo. As a matter of
fact, zoos should have educational and descriptive signs in front of each
species, specifying the scientific name of the animal, its lifestyle, its
habitat, its geographical distribution, its diet, its degree of protection, the
threats which weigh on this species, etc., as well as other more general panels
on major themes such as deforestation, EEPs, the British fauna, coral reefs and
others, more targeted, may be for children, adapted according their age (example:
children’s courses) (Livingston, B., 2000).

However,
zoos are also presented with the challenge to actually involve the visitors
with these conservation issues and how they can contribute to solve these
issues as normal citizens (Sterling, B., et al., 2007).

In fact, Povey
and Rios (2002) demonstrated that the educational methods having the biggest
impact on visitors were the ones where the visitors were personally reached and
had some kind of interaction with the fauna and flora available in the zoo.

In order to
consequently achieve this, zoos made available educational notebooks produced
in collaboration with school teachers, available for all ages after a day at
the zoo, which are intended to guide school groups during their visit, to
prepare them in advance, or to also constitute the basis of a class work (Boer,
K.D., 2015). In the same category, there are “educational workshops”
or “itineraries” for students and the general public. These workshops
are designed to fit easily into academic programs. These are most often educational
entertaining workshops about the environment that take place in a suitable room
or on the zoo, on specific themes to the choice of school (Hosey, G., et al.,
2013). Finally, “commented feedings” are often offered to visitors by
the zoo. They consist of short explanations on specific species, and in
particular allow the participants to learn more about the conservation of the
species and their environment (Dunn, S., et al., 2013).

 

 

 

 

3.     Conclusion

 

In
conclusion, it seems that zoos contribute more to the preservation of species
threatened by actions that are not intrinsic to them, than by the actions of
its own – specifically the maintenance and breeding in captivity of endangered species
within their possible reintroduction (Fraser, D.J., 2008).

In situ
projects are important and are subject to development and increasing attention
over the years (BIAZA). However, reintroductions are very little considered and
the zoos’ populations are likely to remain there for an indefinite period, even
if the species that compose them are overcrowded (Svensson, J., 2011). It is
unclear how the maintenance of reduced numbers of animals in captivity for an
indefinite period can contribute to their preservation, especially as there may
be problems of consanguinity (F.R. Snyder et al., 1996). Unless these
populations can be reintroduced efficiently in the distant future; that the
exposure of the animals induces in the visitor actions contributing to the
preservation of the species; and that the scientific research carried out
thanks to the captive populations of the zoo serve the conservation of these (Gusset and Dick, 2010;
Mazur and Clark, 2001).

For
instance, the best conservation method that would have the greatest impact
would be a combination of captive breeding ex-situ and a certain reintroduction
in-situ.

On another
hand, as seen above, visiting a zoo has the capacity to generate negative and
positive educational methods on the visitors. In fact, negative reactions come
at greater risk when the visitors are not able to clearly see the animals in
their naturalistic enclosure, if there is not enough appropriate information
about the presented species or if they haven’t been provided with the adapted
means to take the most educational advantage out of their visit (Couch, A.S.,
2013).

For
instance, self-guided visits, with the help of educational notebooks, or even
small maps of the zoo with essential information about the captive species, are
able to provide an important growth as for learning outcomes and reinforce a
pro-conservation mindset in the participants already having a positive or
neutral view of zoos (Spring, J.P., 2017). Nevertheless, for new visitors or
novices that never entered a zoo before, it would be more appropriate for them
to take advantage of guided visits with an officer, which would allow them to
have a broad but legitimate idea of the zoo as well as correct information
about the animals and environmental issues (Ross and Gillespie, 2009).

Finally, it
is possible to suggest that zoos’ have a positive influence concerning the conservation
and educational learning on pupils a well as on a more mature public (Sterling,
B., et al., 2007). Zoos in fact have to take advantage on the educational interventions
they can provide, which can notably increase the learning result of these
educational methods, in the interest of maximising the knowledge provided; not
only within the context of the zoo and its animals, but also in the everyday
life of the visitors as for conservation issues (Rabb, G.B., 1994). 

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