Friday, April 24, 2015

A More Modern Zoo Philosophy

Living Desert Zoo
After visiting a major metropolitan zoo about twenty-five years ago, which shall remain nameless since I would like to believe it has evolved a more modern zoo philosophy, I was in no hurry to ever visit another.

Fast forward a couple decades, and I found myself at the Omaha Zoo, simply to kill a little time. I was floored. The habitats were so much more natural than I remembered from my previous experience.  Animals were integrated into their particular habitat, such as a desert or jungle rather than the old “reptile building.”  The zoo is constantly working to make habitats better, and it is currently constructing an immense African Grasslands that I can’t wait to see.

Living Desert Zoo
With my faith renewed, I visited the San Diego Zoo and was again pleasantly surprised at the lengths they have gone to make the habitats as good for the animals as possible. Most recently, I spent a few hours at the Living Desert Zoo in Palm Desert, California.  A few of the enclosures were amazing with fences built out of view over rolling hills giving the illusion of endless space. The Bighorn Sheep even had a natural rocky hill to climb, and again the backside of the enclosure was left to the imagination out of view.

Nothing is an adequate substitute for animals freely roaming their natural environment, but I admit that zoos do serve an important purpose. Some animals are so close to extinction in the wild, one would have to ask if it’s better to let them disappear or to try and keep the gene pool healthy.  Zoos contribute to research and a better understanding of many species. Most important is the vital role zoos can play in educating the next generation. Few can watch and learn about animals, even in captivity, and not develop some desire to protect them.

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