Keeping animals in captivity provides back up populations for struggling wild populations, allowing us to breed and release from these populations. But these captive populations do much more than this. They also provide opportunities to learn things about the animals that cannot be learned otherwise, thus further improving our ability to put them back into the wild. Currently many reintroduction projects have failed due to a lack of understanding about the animals themselves. Biologists have a fairly hands off mentality which is not always good for their understanding of the animals they are trying to help preserve. Usually their focus is more on studying the animal than on preserving them, and they maintain their usual scientific approach to these projects, meaning extremely slow and extremely cautious, which is not always good for the conservation of the species non the verge of extinction.
Private enthusiasts tend to be more agile, flexible and more dedicated to the preservation over study. And they tend to have an understanding of the animal the biologist rarely has. These people rarely understand the areas the biologist understands. So to me, these two groups have combined information and knowledge that is critical to helping species survive. Without dedication and participation of private falconers (the Peregrine Fund 501c3), the peregrine falcon would very likely be extinct today.
If biologist were to study cars, they would first visit some junk yards and dissect a few to study the internal parts of cars. Then they would perch themselves on an overpass and count the vehicles that pass below them. Within a few weeks they would have lots of data about how many white cars, red cars, pickups, semi’s, tow trucks, etc. were passing under the overpass. They would be proud of their data and confident they had learned important information about cars from these studies. But would they open the door and sit behind the wheel and actually drive a car? No. So their understanding would be missing some very key information about cars. This is what they do with animals also.
Zoos are wonderful public education facilities. They help expose people to wild animals. Such exposure is critical to creating public support for preserving struggling species. People will only preserve what they care about. This is very well understood in conservation circles. Educational programs with animals are immensely important to this end, be they at a zoo or privately operated at a county fair. The roughly 200 USA zoos have very limited resources, meaning limited space to house animals, limited staff to care for them and limited funding to pay for all this. They also have a fairly poor track record of breeding success compared to private breeders and they are also fairly poor at conducting conservation release programs. Zoos are very bureaucratic so are very good at displaying animals, keeping records of them and their care. But this bureaucratic nature does not allow flexibility in ways usually needed for innovative processes involved in release projects. Is it in any way reasonable to think 200 zoos are capable of preserving all the endangered species that need preserving? Obviously not. Other private facilities are needed to help fulfill this very important role in conservation.
This only happens though if there is some way for private owners to generate money from their animals. Yet in today’s climate of growing authoritarian socialistic control over private behavior and private resources, the potential and future of such facilities is steadily shrinking. More and more cities and states are adopting exotic animal bans or creating costly fee structures to force private ownership of these animals into extinction. This is often perceived as a “progressive social justice” movement but is in actual fact very short sighted degradation of our free society which will greatly contribute to the premature extinction of many endangered species.
© Copyright 2019 Chris Biro