The Role of Zoos in Conservation: Ethical Considerations Essay example

Words: 3041
Pages: 13

Rachel Stillman

The Role of Zoos in Conservation: Ethical Considerations

As the animal rights movement has developed and grown substantially in recent years, there has been an increased focused on the welfare of captive animals. A popular institution that has received much attention for keeping animals captive is the zoo. Because of this focus, zoos have responded by publicizing their positive benefits for existence in order to justify keeping these animals on display. Since the term “zoo” can have a wide variety of meaning and characteristics, it is important to define what constitutes a zoo in this essay. Zoos are defined as a facility in which animals are confined within enclosures, displayed to the public, and
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The goal of most zoo’s captive breeding programs for endangered species is to establish populations that are large enough to be demographically stable and genetically healthy. In order to successfully breed a species within a zoo, the institution must take specific measures. Some of the measures include ensuring that the animals are maintaining a healthy age structure, guaranteeing that reproduction is successful, protecting the population against disease, and preserving the gene pool to prevent inbreeding problems. An example of a successful species that were conserved because of captive breeding programs are the birds of prey. In the 1960s, many farmers were using the pesticide DDT for their crops, which eventually built up in the food chain. This pesticide weakened the eggs of birds that they would break when parents sat to incubate them. To protect the species, captive breeding programs were established for these birds, and immediately released to the wild. By the year 2000, birds such as the bald eagle and peregrine falcon had populations of almost 10 times their numbers in 1963(Loftis 1). This proper use of captive breeding was attributed to the survival of many birds of prey species. Though these programs may differ from those used in zoos, the bird’s success demonstrates the positive ability of captive breeding when executed properly. In addition, many proponents of the captive breeding process argue that