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Assessing the Role of Zoos in Wildlife Conservation

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Despite their popularity and place in our recreational history, in recent years zoos have undergone considerable change in both their structure and function. While remaining attractive places of entertainment, zoos today also emphasize their contribution to wildlife conservation. This article reviews the role of zoos in wildlife conservation and discusses the effectiveness of their present policies and actions. It is apparent that the major contribution comes through their ex situ actions, including education programs, and captive breeding and management of wildlife. However, recently, zoos have also become more involved with in situ conservation, predominantly through recovery programs for endangered species in cooperation with government authorities and local communities. However, such activities are expensive, and a major obstacle for zoos has always been to strike a balance between commercial success and professional conservation credibility. The opportunities for zoos lie in transforming themselves from traditional animal displays to interactive, entertaining conservation centres that bridge the gap between their captive collections and free-range wildlife.

Keywords: captive breeding; education; research; wildlife conservation; zoos

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: University of Queensland, Gatton, Gatton, Queensland, Australia

Publication date: 2003-04-01

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