As our numbers increase, so space for other animals and plants decreases. Our skills and technological ingenuity seem to know no bounds. Having ventured to every corner of our planet, we are now beginning to look beyond it. We are conducting experiments to find out how to grow food to sustain ourselves should we manage to extend the territory of our species to Mars.
Men impressed their footprints on the moon a mere three and a half million years after the first of them to walk upright left theirs across a field of volcanic ash in Africa. This is a mere blink in the eye of evolution. In that short time we, alone among all animals, have discovered how to exploit our environment to produce more and more food to sustain our unparalleled numbers. In so doing we have denied the earth to other species to such an extent that many have been driven into extinction and many more are now trembling on the brink.
Perhaps the time has come, when we should put our aspirations into reverse. Perhaps now, instead of controlling the environment for the benefit of our population, we should find ways of controlling our population to ensure the survival of our gravely threatened environment.
Think about it: the zoological park in which living animals are subjected to strict confinement; where they must live a life that, no matter the size and ‘naturalness’ of the cage, is wholly different from the natural one to which they are suited; where their instincts are dulled, tamed, and corrupted (eating involves no hunting or foraging and sexual relations are interfered with and closely monitored) allows such seemingly needless suffering to fellow creatures that we, as (hopefully) ethical animals, must not only supply a very good reason for this subjugation, but also live up to it… the zoo should be a local Conservation Center, focusing wholly on saving (or reinstating) species in the wild and on educating the public about the importance of conservation and biodiversity. […]
Zoos sometimes believe that captive animals themselves are sufficient education… Yet what do captive animals - lacking context - teach one about the natural world and its importance?… A visitor can look through the glass and see an insect, a snake, or a reptile and “learn” nothing more than this: they are boring, because they just sit there… It’s also difficult to wrap one’s head around an animal being endangered when it’s three feet in front of you. Without context - without quality information in a variety of forms - zoos only teach us illusions regarding nature and conservation, yet many zoos still believe that caged animals will say it all. […]
Zoos need to take these conservation issues and make them applicable. If they want to stop logging in Borneo to save the orangutans, why doesn’t the zoo provide a list of tropical woods to avoid purchasing? In addition, why don’t they highlight that the rainforest isn’t being cut for Borneo’s needs, but for western and Asian consumption? To tackle the bushmeat trade, zoos could address the larger issue of poverty in Africa… The zoo, as a conservation center, must make visitors aware of their responsibility in fixing these global problems. For in the end it is lack of funds, awareness, resources, and will that continually allows our world to be ravaged in unsustainable and wasteful ways. […]
While quality education may be lacking at most zoos, they are still doing great things in the conservation world. The Bronx Zoo, arguably one of the best in the world, is run by the Wildlife Conservation Society, which currently has 660 field projects around the world… But this leaves me with a question: why are these conservation initiatives not proclaimed? Why don’t zoo visitors see information first-hand about what their local zoo (or zoos across the world) are working on? I’m not talking about just a little plaque and a few words, but an in-depth description of the project and its goals. Let the visitor know that zoos do not exist solely for visitors’ needs, but as research institutes and bases for overseas and local conservation. Allow them to comprehend that animals are not mere entertainment for humans, but a vital part of ecosystems around the world that make our Earth as wondrous (and effective) as it is. […]
If wild animals are not allowed to strike awe in the visitor and to be used as an opportunity to educate them about the decisions they (or their governments) make that affect their wild relatives, then their incarceration is not merely reasonless, but criminal. These animals are ambassadors for wilderness, for a biodiverse earth, for the planet as it is (or even as it was). This is not a role they have chosen, but one we have forced upon them. Zoos have a moral obligation to achieve the most good out of this sad state of affairs.
…we cannot win this battle to save species and environments without forging an emotional bond between ourselves and nature - for we will not fight to save what we do not love (but only appreciate in some abstract sense). So let them all continue - the films, the books, the television programs, the zoos, the little half acre of ecological preserve in any community, the primary school lessons, the museum demonstrations, even (though you will never find me there) the 6:00am bird walks.
Let them continue and expand because we must have visceral contact in order to love. We really must make room for nature in our hearts.
An exciting new tool called iBatsID is set to revolutionise bat identification for conservation efforts throughout Europe, with the ability to classify the calls of 34 species found across the continent. The developers assessed 1350 recordings from the echolocation call library EchoBank, recording the values of 24 different call features from each species. Of the features studied, 12 were identified as being most useful for distinguishing the difference between species, including minimum and maximum frequencies and call duration. With an average species-level classification accuracy of 83.7%, the tool can successfully identify the majority of European bats to species level, with the exception of some members of the Myotis genus that have extremely similar calls and can accurately be classified to subgroup level. iBatsID is freely available for use and will allow standardised acoustic identification for bat research across Europe, the consistency of which will improve the validity of continent-wide monitoring.
Ref: Walters C. L. et al., 2012. A continental-scale tool for acoustic identification of European bats. Journal of Applied Ecology [link]