How Zoos and Aquariums Help Endangered Species

As for the giant panda, the San Diego Zoo exchanged research, knowledge and people with their colleagues in China, which led to improvements in breeding programs and increases in panda habitat conservation. Now there are over 300 pandas in captivity worldwide, which Dr. Alberts says is considered a sustainable population.

Photo courtesy of the San Diego Zoo
Pandas YunZi and BaiYun at the San Diego Zoo. 

The Lincoln Park Zoo has a dedicated Population Management Center responsible for managing hundreds of zoo populations by providing genetic and demographic advice. This management is important, according to Dr. Faust, because zoo populations serve “as the last insurance against complete extinction for some species that are on the brink.”

Forming a Connection With the Public

Acting as a link between the public and wildlife is another crucial way zoos and aquariums help endangered species. For many people, visiting these institutions is the only way for them to see most of these animals.

“Five million people come through our gates every year,” says Dr. Alberts. “What an opportunity to expose these people to wildlife and inspire them to help, to care more, and to make changes in their everyday life that can help wildlife in the long-term.”

Dr. Alberts says this huge audience gives zoos a major advantage over other conservation organizations. Dr. Faust agrees that zoos and aquariums must act as bridges between people and wildlife to “create a lasting bond between them and nature.”

“It has been proven that people who feel connected to animals will be more motivated to participate in conservation efforts and more likely to share that mindset with others,” says Dr. Faust.

For Erin Merz, manager of media and public relations at the Mystic Aquarium, the fact that the public can connect with such a wide variety of animals in one day proves how important these institutions are to wildlife conservation.

“You can learn from TV and books, but in person and with hands-on encounters, just touching a shark or a penguin can bring a whole new appreciation of animals,” Merz says. “These animals serve as ambassadors to those in the wild."

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