Photo by Ken Bohn, San Diego Zoo
Zoos are often the best hope or even last hope for the survival of a species, especially if they are threatened or endangered. Recently, a study conducted by University of Lyon and University of Zurich researchers found that 80% of the mammals studied lived longer in a zoological setting than their wild counterparts. The study analyzed zoological databases and included over 50 different mammal species. Here are six reasons why these animals live longer in zoos.
- Life in the wild is not exactly paradise. Animals deal with wild stressors such as competition, social challenges, and the habitat’s carrying capacity (the maximum population size of the species that the environment can be sustain, given the availability of food, habitat space, water, and other necessities available in the environment needed to survive).
- Many smaller species live longer in zoos compared to their wild counterparts because lifespans in the wild are shorter due to predation or intraspecific competition. Animals in zoological facilities have no immediate threats or competitors.
- Animals have to deal with a decaying word. From pollution to habitat encroachment, humans have a great impact on the planet.
- Zoological medicine has allowed animals to live longer in zoological facilities. Animals are under constant disease surveillance. With regular health checks, diseases that may be fatal in the wild are detected early and treated.
- Years of research have improved all aspects of managing animals in human care. Most zoos believe in managing animals scientifically based on what has been learned about their biology, behavior, social structures, health, and nutrition.
- Animal husbandry practices have greatly improved over the past few decades and continue to improve as we learn more about an animal’s biology. Husbandry programs are animal centered and mimic their natural environment, diet, biological patterns including breeding, and incorporate various types of enrichment to keep the animals active both physically and mentally.
While zoos get a bad reputation from antagonistic animal rights groups, they actually ensure the survival of animals so that they will be around for generations to come. While there are anti-zoo groups, there are actually more open-minded individuals willing to learn about zoos and make decisions for themselves. Unlike animals, humans abuse their environment and it is the animals that suffer. Zoos may be the single most important insurance policy against extinction, not to mention their contribution to conservation and education.