Thursday, July 23, 2009

A Day at the Zoo

My kids and I spent the day at the Akron Zoo last week and enjoyed seeing all the animals including the jaguar cubs, jellyfish, lions, sloth bears and tortoises (oddly enough one was stolen that night, but I swear we didn't do it). The picture at right proves he was still there when we visited!

Every time I go to the zoo, I can't help but revisit the debate over whether keeping animals behind cages is helpful or harmful to animals. Having done research in the past about orca captivity makes me particularly aware of how bad some situations can be.

Overall, though, I think zoos are lots of fun and an excellent way to teach children about conservation and the world around them. The first zoo I ever took my son to was the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, Nebraska and I loved a quote they had on the wall. I can't find the exact words (amazingly, not everything seems to be available on the Internet), but the gist of it was that you had to see the animals to learn about them, you had to learn about them to understand them, and you had to understand them to want to protect them. I think that sums up my feelings. Ideally, I wish all animals were out roaming the wild, but if you consider the impact that humans have on the animal kingdom, I think zoos go a long way in helping us understand and appreciate the enviornment around us.

There are some ways to make sure that the zoo that you visit is working in the best interests of the animals. Here are a few things to consider before you head off for a day with the wild animals.
  • Check to see if they are a member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. This group gives accreditation to zoos that meet their rigid standards. Only 10% of animal exhibits in the US meet these standards. Fortunately, most major zoos and aquariums do make the cut.
  • Pay attention to what other activities the zoo takes part in. Do they support conservation efforts in other parts of the world? Are they breeding endangered species? My favorite zoo for helping the endangered species is the San Diego Wild Animal Park which is making great strides with endangered animals including rhinos and giraffes.
  • Check out the staff. Are the animals being cared for by trained staff?
  • Look at the exhibits themselves. Are they trying to put the animals in something similar to their natural habitat or do they just have one lone animal sitting on a slab of concrete?
Once you've checked out where you're headed, pack some snacks and suncreen and enjoy the animals. Maybe, for once, the wild animals on your outing won't be your own!

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

1 comment:

  1. a great find for panda fanatic!
    my roommate and i LOVE this bag