Visit a zoo or aquarium during Zoo and Aquarium Month – Red Bluff Daily News

Visit a zoo or aquarium during Zoo and Aquarium Month – Red Bluff Daily News

As my husband can attest, no matter where we go if there is either a zoo or aquarium near, we go see them. personally, they have educated me, instilled an insatiable curiosity, and inspired a fervent desire to protect the creatures that share my world. Since June is Zoo and Aquarium Month, it is a perfect time to learn a bit more about the roles of these institutions.

Around 2500 BCE, in Egypt and Mesopotamia, records indicate many exotic animals were kept by aristocrats, which was a precursor to today’s zoo. The first zoos began in the mid- to late 18th century, with the oldest still-operating zoo in the world, Tiergarten Schönbrunn in Vienna, opening in 1752. The first zoo built for scientific purposes was the London Zoo in 1828, established by the Zoological Society of London (https://www.zsl.org/). In 1831 the Dublin Zoo (https://www.dublinzoo.ie/) was created for the medical study of animals. In 1860 the Central Park Zoo (https://centralparkzoo.com/) was the first built in the United States.

According to The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (https://www.aza.org/), as of April 2022, there are 239 accredited zoos and aquariums and 14 related organizations in 46 states and 13 countries. In all of the combined AZA-accredited facilities, zoo and aquarium professionals take care of over 730,000 animals of 8,500 species. Of those species, 800 are Vulnerable, Endangered, Critically Endangered, or Extinct-In-The-Wild, as categorized by the IUCN Red List (https://www.iucnredlist.org/).

In addition, a 2011 survey conducted by the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (https://www.waza.org/) showed that more than 700 million people yearly visit zoos and aquariums worldwide, and are potentially exposed to environmental education. Furthermore, the world zoo and aquarium community reports spends approximately 350 million US dollars on wildlife conservation each year.

I agree whole heartedly with Robin Ganzert, President and CEO of American Humane (https://www.americanhumane.org/), who stated, “zoos provide people, especially impressionable children, with the opportunity to see these remarkable animals up close. People won’t protect what they don’t love, and they can’t love what they don’t know. No matter how closely programs like Planet Earth depict animals, nothing will match the bond of seeing them in real life. Just look at a child’s eyes at the zoo when he or she encounters a tiger or equally majestic animal.”

Opposing views would quote the Animal Studies Repository (http://animalstudiesrepository.org/), a digital collection of resources related to the study of animal welfare and the human-animal bond, which conclusion, “to date there is no compelling or even particularly suggestive evidence for the claim that zoos and aquariums promote attitude change, education, and interest in conservation in visitors.” However, I’m not sure that is quite accurate. Please read on.

Based on survey data from 2019, AZA members provided teacher-professional development, curriculum resources and free planning visits that reached more than 96,000 teachers. Through field trips, outreach programs and education resources targeted to K-12 students, 5.5 million individuals were reached. In addition, 124 facilities reported that more than 1,200 education programs, which included content about connecting to nature, reached more than 33 million people.

Wildlife is in a fight for survival. The World Wildlife Fund (https://www.worldwildlife.org/) found that there has been a 58% decline in vertebrate population between 1970 and 2012. But despite this, some endangered species are making a comeback such as Corroboree Frogs, Eastern Bongos, Regent Honeyeaters, Panamanian Golden Frogs, Bellinger River Turtles, Golden Lion Tamarins, and Amur Leopards due to the conservation work of zoos worldwide.

Zoos are also working to save polar bears, tigers, and African elephants from habitat loss, apes and rhinos from poachers, dolphins and whales from hunters, and bees and butterflies from population declines, among a great many other efforts to aid animals.

For an excellent example of the conservation work of zoos, look no further than the California Condor. These majestic creatures, in Pleistocene times, ranged from Canada to Mexico, across the southern United States to Florida, and north on the east coast to New York. However, by the late 1930s, no condors remained outside of California and by 1982, the total population had dwindled to just 22 birds.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service (https://www.fws.gov/) began a captive breeding program in 1983, teaming with the Los Angeles Zoo (https://www.lazoo.org/) and the San Diego Wild Animal Park (https://sandiegozoowildlifealliance.org/)with the Peregrine Fund’s World Center for Birds of Prey (https://peregrinefund.org/visit) and the Oregon Zoo (https://www.oregonzoo.org/) joining at a later date. Unfortunately, condor numbers continued to decline until, by 1985, only nine wild birds remained in the wild.

A controversial decision was made to bring all remaining condors into captivity, and the last bird was captured on April 19, 1987. As a result of this unprecedented decision, captive-bred condors were released back into the wild in California beginning in January 1992. Today, more than 127 condors fly free in our state and the world total is around 400, more than half of which are in the wild.

To find out more about some zoos and aquariums that are close, visit: the Sequoia Park Zoo (http://www.SequoiaParkZoo.net), B. Bryan Preserve (http://www.bbryanpreserve.com), Sacramento, Oakland and San Francisco zoos and Steinhart and Monterey Bay aquariums and Aquarium of the Bay (http://www.aquariumofthebay.org).

Ronnie Casey has been volunteering with the Tehama County Animal Care Center since relocating in 2011. A retired RN, she strives to help animals in need within Tehama county. She can be reached at rmcredbluff@gmail.com.

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