Endangered Species: Zoos and Aquariums

Issues pertaining to our environment have led to nationwide and global debates that are frequently discussed, specifically focusing on if the environment is safe to due to climate change and pollution for humans and more importantly, in this argument, animals. Not only can those particular problems be a threat to animals, but so can habitat loss and fragmentation, hunting, and poaching. Another main focus that people often concentrate on is endangered species, some including Sumatran elephants, rhinoceroses, orangutans, etc., are endangered primarily because of human settlements and/or industries and to make business (One Kind, n.d.).

People are constantly arguing over whether and when businesses and manufacturers should be able to have precedent over the environment. If the economy of the city or town is struggling or in a state of hardships or depression, only then should business have precedent over the environment. Creating business will help bring in income for the business and helping to revive it. Just like in the movie, Hoot, Chuck Muckle is a corporate vice president of a restaurant and wants to establish another one of them in the town of Coconut Cove, however he wants to build it on a site where only a limited amount of burrowing owls live.

Three kids are the only ones in the town who understand the dangers and negative outcomes that the construction will have on the owls and other environmental factors. Actions like those of Muckle, along with deforestation, poaching, fragmentation, and so on, are why zoos and aquariums are good for animals and where their location, away from any potential or existing dangers are, comes in play. A main reason why these institutions were established was for endangered species and that they might now have a better and longer life since threats are diminished and gone.

Business-wise, zoos and aquarium help the business by bringing in income and money to it because of the jobs, the tickets, and other benefits. On the environmental side, those jobs and that money means more of it will go to the animals and taking care of them, like improving their habitat inside the zoo. Zoos and aquariums can not only help animals, but they can help humans learn more or new facts about animals, and it is convenient and more affordable for people so they don’t have to travel across the world to faraway countries.

According to The Humane Society of the United States, animal cruelty is “the intentional, malicious acts of harm and situations where the needs of an animal are neglected” (The Humane Society of the United States, n.d.). Animal cruelty can be considered by a wide variety of neglectful or violent actions toward animals; one of the primary ones being poaching: which can easily bring in enormous amounts of money. Poaching, the illegal trade of “wildlife trafficking and seizures of animals parts,” can be worth tens of billions of dollars. As of 2014, a rhinoceros horn is worth $60,000 per kilogram and raw elephant ivory is $2,142 per kilogram (Poaching F, n.d.). All of those dollars cost the lives of approximately 1,030 rhinos and 100,000 elephants each year because of poaching.

Zoos and aquariums have been around for centuries and each one receiving an exceptional amount of income for their business. The first zoo was opened in 1765 in Vienna, Austria; the Tiergarten Schönbrunn, known today as the Vienna Zoo, was an “imperial menagerie.” The London Zoo was established in 1847 as the world’s first scientific zoo, as well as the first public aquarium in 1853 (ProQuest staff, 2018). From there on, facilities like zoos and aquariums were being established and opened to the public, bringing in an exceptionable amount of income to the business of that specific place. T

he Tierpark Hagenbeck, the Detroit Zoo, and the Bronx Zoo are exemplary facilities that have made changes to improve the animals’ lives. In 1907, The Tierpark Hagenbeck was the first zoo to use moats to better replicate the natural habitat of the animals, instead of barred cages. Then in 1969, after being opened as an entertainment zoo for nearly 40 years, the Detroit Zoo ended its elephant show, and in 1983, ended its chimpanzee show, “acknowledging that trainers may have mistreated the animals to get them to perform.” By the mid 1990s, the Bronx Zoo, the European Union, The Association of Zoos and Aquariums, and the United Kingdom all announced and passed plans to higher the standards of the conditions that zoo animals lived in, that ensured survival of particular animals, and that participated in wildlife conservation programs.

Going even further, there are international protections and voluntary standards that pertain to the treatment of species of animals. One of the most important international protections is CITES (the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species), where an estimated 5,000 species are “protected from over exploitation” within the the international trade regulations, and if a country joins this convention, there are legally binded and the country has to “implement the Convention into their own national laws.” Putting in these regulations and acts are illustrating that zoos are taking action to not just taken care of animals individually but internationally, helping the businesses by ensuring that corruption isn’t taking place.

The Endangered Species Act is a Federal statute that was “designed to protect wildlife and their habitats.” This proposal only extended to specific species, however officials (of The Secretary of the interior, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Secretary of Commerce, and the National Marine Fisheries Service) have the authority to have the revise the list and even look to incorporate a new threatened species in the list (Grech, 2004). The Act also has strong public support, thus strengthening the act causing animal treatment to continually and gradually improve, bringing in more people to the zoos and aquariums because the people support animal rights and for them to be treated with care, respect, and love, resulting in more money for the businesses (Greenwald, n.d.).

Although some zoos and aquariums take good care and treat the animals well and with respect, they can also be sites of loss of natural instincts because of the captivity for too long, sometimes resulting in the animals not experiencing “life the same way they would had had they lived in their natural habitat” (Baker, 2017). An example being “Keiko, a 26-year-old orca and the star of Free Willy, died just one year after being released from captivity. He had been in captivity since 1979 and was released into the wild five years after the filming of the last Free Willy movie” which was released in 1997. Since he had always had some type of human companionship, he didn’t know to survive in the wild. When released into the ocean, Keiko continued to search for human companionship “because he did not know a life without it” (Baker, 2017). Adapting to an animal’s own environment should be a easy adjustment, for the most part, but having an animal in captivity for too long with the treatment provided to the animals everyday for years is what causes them to become dependent on human companionship.

However, numerous zoos and aquariums are a safe haven to and provide better necessities for various animals: those in which are endangered, close to becoming extinct, or are suffering from negative environmental factors. Animal populations are drastically decreasing and their habitats are disappearing due to poaching and mass deforestation: two of the largest contributing threats, and zoological institutions have found many different ways to properly care for their animals (Graham, 2018). They have ensured conservation programs and techniques which have helped save multiple species from becoming extinct, an example being the Phoenix Zoo which saved the Arabian Oryx (a long-time hunted type of antelope), the National Zoo that rescued the Golden Lion Tamarin (small orange monkeys threatened by habitat fragmentation and destruction), the San Diego Zoo which rescued the California Condors (because of poaching, lead poisoning, and habitat fragmentation there were only 22 left in the wild until saved), and the Lincoln Park Zoo which saved the Puerto Rican Parrot (from harsh weather, mainly because of their vulnerability to hurricanes).

All of the animals, right near extinction before being taken in for protection, were brought into captivity at the institutions and released as soon as possible. The zoos let them free and back into the free in their natural environment as soon as they went through “successful captive breeding and reintroduction” (Lombardi, 2012). Canadian zoos have also joined in on helping to preserve animals, specifically endangered animals.

Some of Canada’s progressive zoos and aquariums are also “taking real action to save species through field studies, breed-and-release initiatives, rescue programs and public engagement campaigns. Zoos all over Canada have taken a step further and took the initiative to “work with species declared extinct in the wild” (Graham, 2018). The way to accomplish this one way is by establishing and carefully managing populations in the facilities to serve as protection against the extinction of species.

All in all, although zoos and aquariums can cause human dependency and misery in some places, there are more positive aspects about the facilities that outweigh the negatives: including being a safe haven for animals being threatened by poaching, by habitat destruction and/or fragmentation, poisons, etc and in some cases, endangered species are being saved from going extinct and being able to no longer roam this earth; and there are numerous acts and association that help to prevent animal extinction and to ensure animals are receive good and proper treatment and handling. There are federal statutes, international protections, voluntary standards, etc. that pertain to the treatment and well-being of zoo animals. The Animal Welfare Act is “one of the most important laws…because it’s the only Federal statute concerned with the welfare of animals” and enact “standards to govern the human handling, care, treatment, and transportation of animals” (Grech, 1970).I believe that zoos and aquariums are a good addition to society because they have many positive aspects. In my opinion, the positives outweigh the negatives to a good extenet.

Zoos have so much potential that people don’t even think about and realize. They enable adults and kids to learn about local and exotic animals, the facilities also give people an advantage for transportation because they won’t have to go to Africa to see elephants or China to see pandas, saving them the cost of their time and having to fly out of the country; making it much more easier, cheaper, and faster to see and learn about all different kinds of animals. Although I haven’t been to an aquarium, when I was younger, my parents took my siblings and I to the Brookfield Zoo and I loved every moment of it. Giraffes were my favorite animal, they were so tall and pretty and interesting, but I didn’t really know any facts about them. Once I looked at the little informational boxes, I was even more fascinated in giraffes, and I started to read about facts of every animal in the zoo, and my love for zoos (and giraffes) continued to grow each time we visited a different zoo.

Zoos and aquariums are also have a positive impact because they help protect animals from serious threats and issues. It can be a rescue place for animals who lost their habitats due to mass deforestation, habitat fragmentation, pollution, hunting, and poaching. The facilities not only provide a safe haven for those who are suffering in their natural habitat, but those that are being mistreated in circuses or other forms of entertainment, as well. Zoos and aquariums take in numerous endangered species into their facilities.

Overall, I believe zoos have many positive impacts and are beneficial: they bring both families and animals together, they provide educational information, they play a very crucial role in protecting endangered species, most if not almost all zoos and aquariums have dedicated their business to have conservation programs and raise money for conservation efforts–helping their business and the animals.

Many institutions also help to include breeding and reintroduction programs, as well as having dedicated trainers and experts helping to treat wildlife diseases that give any threat to conservation. Ultimately, zoos and aquariums are good for animals because if they are threatened by human actions like habitat destruction or fragmentation, or poaching, being moved to a zoo or aquarium will make those potential or existing dangers disappear. One of the most important pros of having those types of facilities is that endangered animals are safe from being killed and at the worst, becoming extinct. To help make sure all species in zoos and aquariums are being taken care of with proper treatment and handling, certain laws, acts, and conventions have been put in place, which are strongly supported by the public, reeling in money for the institutions because of the public’s support for the zoo’s being respectful and caring towards the animals.

Although there are the negatives to zoos, like confinement, human dependency, and lack of natural survival skills, zoos still sometimes need to be established to save specific animals and bring in business for the economy of a city or town which wraps up the main idea: business should only have precedent over the environment if the economy of the city or town is struggling or in a state of hardships or depression, which will help create more sustainable business and help bring in income for the business and help to revive it.