Can Zoos Make a Difference in the Plight of Endangered Animals?

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While the jury is still out as to the best way to help prevent endangered animals from going extinct, all are in agreement that something must be done. Endangered Animals, Southwick's Zoo, Mendon, MAFor instance, over 1,200 of 10,000 bird species are listed as threatened or endangered. And about 20% of all known mammal species are either threatened or endangered animals.

According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), endangered animals are different from threatened animals in that they are actually in danger of becoming extinct. Threatened animals are in danger of becoming endangered animals if nothing is done soon. And extinct animals have not been seen in the wild in the past 50 years. The IUCN publishes a Red List of Threatened Species every four years.

So why not let nature take its course? Why not simply sit back and watch these endangered animals go into extinction? Because for one, we are animals ourselves and some of us cannot help but feel empathy for these endangered animals. For another, humans are in large part responsible for some animals becoming endangered in the first place and many of us want to do our best to help turn things around.

As the human population continues to grow, much of our lands are becoming overdeveloped to the point where animals are being forced from their homes. By damming rivers, filling in wetlands and chopping down trees in great numbers, we, as humans, have contributed to the destruction of the habitat of not just endangered animals, but of all animals.

Pollution is also playing a role in destroying wild habitats. Many species of fish and birds have been directly affected by acid rain, water pollution, and oil spills. And then there’s the hunting of animals for precious body parts such as ivory tusks that can contribute to animals becoming endangered. In fact, rhinoceros horns can fetch nearly $30,000 a pound, putting the White Rhinoceros on the endangerd species list, in part, due to poaching.

Zoos often play a significant role in keeping endangered animals from extinction. This article by Yahoo! Voices explains.

How Zoos Help Endangered Animals

Shelly BarclayYahoo! Contributor Network


Many zoos have programs that help endangered animal populations recuperate. They can help these endangered animals in many ways, primarily through breeding and reintroduction into the wild. If this is done properly, many endangered species will be given the chance to thrive in the wild once again.


One of the more common things that some zoos do to help endangered animals is to breed them. The idea is to have more of these animals so that some may be reintroduced into their natural habitat. Zoos must cooperate with each other during this process to ensure strong offspring. Animals are often traded between zoos and careful records should be kept of each animal’s ancestry. This ensures genetic diversity among the babies. In the long run, inbreeding could hurt endangered animals more than it will help them.


The goal of this breeding should be reintroduction into the wild, though this is not always possible. Some animals need to be kept for further breeding. Others may not be able to survive in the wild for various reasons, so the best thing to do is to keep them in a zoo. That way they are fed and cared for and may live long lives despite their weakness. Another reason an endangered animal may not be set free is lack of natural habitats. That is why habitat conservation is an integral part of what zoos must do to help endangered animals.


Zoos like the London Zoo, Woodland Park Zoo and the Toronto Zoo, among others, are actively involved in habitat conservation efforts. Many of them send specialists out into the field to do what they can to maintain or protect endangered animal habitats. Some of their programs may also promote fund-raising, research and public awareness for habitat conservation.


In a way, all zoos that contain endangered animals provide a learning experience for visitors. Just seeing these animals helps the general public to understand how important they are. On top of that, many of these zoos provide information on endangered animals and resources for those who want to help.


Some animal activists oppose the keeping of endangered animals in zoos. There is controversy over the fairness of caging one animal for the sake of its species. Nonetheless, there is strong evidence that some of these programs work. Endangered animals like the Przewalski horse, red wolves, California condors and black-footed ferrets have had increased populations due to the assistance of zoo workers.

Zoos are often times misunderstood as to their true purpose and intent. That could not be further from the truth. In reality, zoos house and care for animals that in many cases would have been destroyed.  At Southwick’s Zoo in Mendon, MA, our zookeepers are highly educated and care for these animals with great love and attention. Many of our animals have come to us from dire circumstances and have been saved by the knowledge, education and skillful caring of these zookeepers.

To visit our fantastic animals, some of whom are on the endangered animals list, stop by Southwick’s Zoo during our open season. The 2013 season will run from April 13 – October 17. In the meantime, you can stay in the loop via our Zookeeper’s Diary and our eNewlsetter list. Our animals are awaiting your visit!

How often do you take your family to the zoo? And what are your thoughts about endangered animals?


  1. I think zoos should help endangered animals because it is not fair to just sit back and watch them from becoming extinct they should help them by placing a many of them in zoos around the world so they can keep an eye of them and then a few are left in the wild and if they are then

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