Would you visit a zoo?

By | Category: Travel rumblings

London Zoo

This week, Responsible Travel, based in Brighton which specialises in wildlife holidays has dropped visits to zoos as part of its tours.

The reason? It says that zoos are “… relics of the past, and the arguments to justify keeping animals in captivity no longer stand up.”

Justin Francis, the MD of Responsible Travel claims that most animals kept in zoos were not endangered and that there had been few examples of endangered species being reintroduced to the wild after being kept or bred in captivity.

The company will still promote legitimate animal sanctuaries and rescue centres for animals that cannot be returned to the wild, wildlife conservancies and National Parks, as well as rehabilitation centres where animals are looked after and then returned to the wild.

Some zoos such as Jersey and London Zoos have a long standing reputation for their conservation work. Should we not visit it because it is called a zoo whereas if it had been called Jersey Wildlife Centre or London Wildlife Centre everything would be fine?

Two years ago, the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) called for zoos (it has 280 members) to spend 3% of their operational budgets as a minimum on conservation. This seems a small figure. If zoos are not concentrating on conservation, is their real purpose just to display a range of animals for our interest?

Initially zoos enabled us to see creatures from around the world at a time when people hardly travelled unless they were rich. Today, travel is within most people’s reach. You can see animals in their habitat. Apart from those that are rare and then  you have to be lucky or you can go to a “zoo.”

Isn’t “zoo” just a word, a word that recalls to mind creatures in small enclosures because that is what we visited when we were children? Modern zoos have reinvented themselves in many cases because they have had to. Our attitudes have changed just like we don’t tolerate bears in chains or wild animals in circuses.  The next step would seem to be to rebrand “zoos” as wildlife centres, conservation projects or recue centres so their work is not stigmatised.

To my mind it doesn’t matter what you call these places as long as long as the creatures inside are not kept merely for viewing and money-making.

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