Many people believe that zoos are prisons for animals, so they must be closed. Others, on the contrary, argue that preserving zoos is the only way to save endangered species.
Initially, zoos (more precisely – menageries) were created as collections of wild animals to satisfy the curiosity of the public. Preservation of species, including breeding them in captivity, is a relatively new direction of their activities. The main goal of such breeding programs is to maintain the number of endangered animals in order to reintroduce them into nature, when suitable conditions will be created for this. Therefore, it is important to simultaneously restore the natural habitat, or at least eliminate the factors that place the given taxon on the verge of extinction.
Most zoos have only a few individuals of each species. In order to avoid inbreeding and weakening of adaptive properties of animals, the interzoopark exchange of producers is widely practiced. Their routes are coordinated by the International Species Inventory System (ISIS), headquartered in the Minnesota Zoo.
The zoos have existed for a long time. For example, in China, the zoos existed already 3000 years ago, and in ancient Egypt the priests at temples grew lions and baboons. Separate zoos have their own goals, but they are generally known – restoration, research, species conservation, enlightenment, and of course – people’s recreation.
50 years ago, many zoos were rows of simple iron cages in which animals were kept. People came to rest, to look at the animals. In some of the 700 zoos scattered around the globe, sometimes animals are still kept in similar conditions. However, thanks to new views, now zoos have different rules and conditions.
Many rare species of animals were rescued from complete extinction only due to their breeding in zoos. Some of them, for example the lion tamarin (Leontopithecus rosalia), are now numerous in zoos than there are in nature. Rare Balinese starlings that have good white plumage are grown in many zoos around the world.
Of course, the zoos are not an ideal environment for animals. Often, the state allocates very little funds for the maintenance of animals. But still, breeding animals in captivity is one of the ways to fight for the preservation of the endangered species. This way does not always give positive results, but the zoos all over the world work closely and exchange pedigree animals to avoid degeneration of species.
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