In the past year I have published two peer reviewed co-authored articles about the role of accredited zoos in species at risk conservation. One piece was published in an open-access journal called Global Ecology and Conservation and you can access it here. The other was published in The Canadian Geographer and you read the abstract here.
Once published each of these articles made rounds through social media, especially twitter. Zoos and organizations like Canada’s Accredited Zoos and Aquariums (CAZA) tweeted links and positive comments about the articles. Interesting, there was a LOT of negative reactions to my articles – and by extension me – on Twitter in response. For example:
However, I stand by the research. It is both thoughtful and objective.
The fact of the matter is accredited zoos – specifically the Toronto Zoo, the Calgary Zoo, the Assiniboine Zoo, and the Vancouver Aquarium – are doing a lot of work with species at risk conservation. Through direct work at the zoo, including research, and indirect work through staff members who serve on national and international committees, these institutions are helping species at risk.
Thus, I am pro accredited zoo. Yes, there are lots of problems at lots of zoos. Look no further than the Bowmanville Zoo here in Ontario that closed in 2016 because of animal cruelty issues.
I am not saying – nor does my research claim – that all zoos are wonderful and perfect and saving the world by ending the biodiversity crisis. Instead, my co-author and I are drawing attention to the good things that 4 accredited zoos in Canada are doing to help federally listed species at risk.
What is an accredited zoo? There are two main organizations that accredit zoos: Association for Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and the Canada’s Accredited Zoos and Aquariums (CAZA). Not all zoos in Canada are accredited so when you go to visit one, you should check to make sure it has accreditation. This ensures that high standards, such as those against animal cruelty, are met at that institution. You can find a list of accredited zoos on CAZA and AZA’s websites.
Our research focused on 4 AZA/CAZA accredited zoos. We went into the zoos and interviewed staff members and observed different exhibits for species at risk inside the zoos. We also examined peer reviewed literature as well as federal documents regarding species at risk and zoo-collaboration.
There is good reason to support the conservation work of accredited zoos. I invite you to read the research and decide for yourself.
No doubt this post will invoke more backlash. But that is okay. I am pro accredited-zoo and will stand-by the research.